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Street Law students clinch top legal prize

Some of the Street Law team

Some of the Street Law team

Law students who go out into the community to help people with legal issues will be able to extend their work into the county for the first time after winning a prestigious grant.

The Street Law team, based at Leicester De Montfort Law School, were the winners of this year’s £1,000 Alistair MacQueen Memorial Grant 2013. The award is made by the Oxford University Press to one UK law school a year to support a pro bono activity.

Run by student volunteers, Street Law organises free legal information sessions with city groups including Action Homeless, giving information about rights and responsibilities in housing law to the homeless. They have also run sessions with schools on cyber bullying and run mock trial sessions for primary school pupils to encourage them to think about a career in law.

Hannah Lyall, a third year student, is president of Street Law. She said: “I was jumping around the room when I got the email saying we had won!

“It’s fantastic to get the recognition. We are hoping to use the money to extend our reach into the county, and produce booklets giving people information about topics such as housing. Street Law’s core aim is to help people in the community to understand how the law affects them and how that can help them, and this money will help us to do that.

“This is an amazing opportunity to help more people on a level we haven’t been able to previously. This grant helps us to go further into the Leicestershire community and help others gain access to the law that affects them, without them thinking that without a solicitor there is nothing they can do to help themselves.”

Street Law was founded at DMU in 2002 by four law students from an idea by previous head of Law School, Richard Ward.

Principal lecturer Alwyn Jones, who has been involved from the start, said: “This is an extremely prestigious award – after all, it’s one award, for one law school, once a year and they have given it to us.

“It’s a real tribute to the hard work of the students here who give up their time to working in the community. Doing a law degree, people fairly quickly get used to talking in legalese. This gives the law students the chance to explain complex legal issues in a straightforward way to people who do not necessarily have a legal background. It offers practical research about issues that affect people in real life.”

He praised Hannah’s work in leading the bid preparation and the Street Law committee - Alicia Yorke, Sam Edwards, Natalie Harkness, Chris Richards, Thomas Wyatt, Megan McCarthy, Jennie Barnes, Sebastian Stauffenberg, Rhia Davies, Laura Knight and Aaron Dudfield.

A spokesman for the OUP said: “The team was impressed by the originality of the Street Law project, and felt that its aims were valuable and well thought-out. The application really highlighted the commitment of the law school to educating children, particularly primary school children, and young people about the law and their legal rights.

“We were also impressed by De Montfort’s commitment towards extending the reach of Street Law into the wider Leicestershire community, and we are very happy to award the grant in support of this work.”

The award was created in memory of legal publisher Alistair MacQueen, who founded Blackstone Press in 1988. He set up several initiatives in law schools across the UK to inspire students.

 

Posted on Wednesday 13th February 2013

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