Law students and solicitors team up in DMU's new legal advice centre
A new programme to provide law students with practical experience in working with clients and communities has proved such a success it is being expanded.
De Montfort University Leicester (DMU)’s Legal Advice Centre works in partnership with Leicester law firms to give students the chance to deal with real-life cases, meeting clients and doing research to prepare casework.
Now the DMU legal centre, which is based on campus, is to become a module for all law students. And it has teamed up with Castle Park Solicitors to launch a new free legal service based at DMU’s Innovation Centre.
People wanting advice on family, immigration, wills or probate issues can speak to students, all of whom are supervised by qualified solicitors.
Castle Park Solicitors has worked closely with DMU to offer student internships and runs sessions every week at its Millstone Lane base at which Law students can meet clients, sit in on interviews and work on cases.
Omar Madhloom, senior lecturer in law, said the pilot phase had given students an insight into working in the legal profession. It is now due to become a module for all third-year DMU law students.
He said: “It has been a learning curve, but the most important thing is that we feel we are making a difference to the students’ employment chances.”
“To be able to have these kind of experiences working with law firms on a variety of legal matters is something which is very, very unusual for the majority of law students..”
Castle Park is the first law firm in the UK to be owned by a charity, and all profits are ploughed back into the Community Advice and Law Service, which provides free legal help to people in need.
Rachel Wharrad, director, said: “We got involved because, two of the Solicitors at Castle Park are DMU graduates, and we wanted to maintain strong links with the university.
“We could also see the benefits that this will have on the students. It will set them apart to employers. They are learning the practical, day-to-day life of a solicitor and having the knowledge to go forward.”
“We also hope they will see the opportunities available in Leicester and the breadth of experience that they can develop in the city, and in this way encourage graduates to stay in Leicester.”
“The first two years in a new job you have so much to learn – how to dress, how to handle clients, the professionalism the job requires and this gives the students a head start.”
Louise Koch, immigration expert, said: “Access to justice is at the heart of what we do. People skills are so important to our work and by being able to observe interviews and work on cases the students have learned so much. Our clients have been very supportive.”
Third year Ayesha Adam rediscovered her love of the law after taking a year out and getting a job at Castle Park.
She said: “It has been more beneficial for me than I expected, I took on other roles and now have experience in many different areas, not simply in legal matters but seeing how the business is run. I have a better understanding of how to open and run my own law practice if I want to do that in the future.”
Law student George Emery is based at Castle Park every week. He said: “Myself and two others sit and listen on interviews and do caseload preparation. It has helped me so much in terms of being able to develop my listening and communications skills and, particularly in the family cases, see how solicitors deal with emotive situations.”
“As well as the legal skills I have learned time management and have learned completely new areas of law through research.”
The Legal Advice Centre also sees students working with the Citizens’ Advice Bureau in Granby Street and BDLS (a Leicester-based law firm). The Legal Advice Centre can be accessed by booking an appointment through the website De Montfort University Leicester (DMU)’s Legal Advice Centre.
Posted on: Wednesday 17 May 2017