An appeal for support from the profession for the new Dundee student-led advice clinic

The importance of pro bono work in the profession has recently been hailed by the then Lord Advocate, Elish Angiolini QC at the launch of LawWorks Scotland. As Ms Angiolini noted, the work of Scottish universities has been exemplary in this regard. One such example can be seen in the hard work, dedication and motivation displayed by staff and students at Dundee Law School.

In a matter of months, a steering group of 20 students led by staff co-ordinator Professor Fiona Raitt and student director Eamon Keane have established a fully operational “drop-in” clinical facility, offering legal advice and assistance free of charge to members of the public who are not eligible for legal aid. All advice, assistance and guidance offered by the students is carried out under the supervision of qualified solicitors. To date the clinic has helped with a range of issues from housing problems and employment disputes to child support and immigration issues.

All student advisers have undergone training with members of staff who are experts in their field. Additionally, local charitable organisations such as Shelter have provided training and workshops on problematic areas of housing and employment law. True to the old adage, however, experience has proven to be the best teacher: as the footfall of clients to the drop-in sessions has increased, the knowledge and expertise of the student advisers has also grown. The beneficial effect of allowing students hands-on experience of legal problems has added a dimension not found in the traditional LLB degree.

While certain problems and barriers have had to be overcome, backing from within the Law School and an abundance of energy and enthusiasm amongst the student body has allowed a pipe dream very quickly to become a reality.

Holding true to the original aim of the clinic to improve access to justice in disadvantaged areas in Dundee and Tayside, steps are currently being taken to allow the clinic to become mobile, offering assistance and advice in local areas where unmet legal need is highest and free advice most sought after. The clinic has also forged links with Fife Law Centre, allowing students to assist solicitors in the newly opened office at Leven and the in-court advice service at local courts.

The project stands as testament to the passion and dedication of law students in Scotland to work hard and campaign for access to justice and equality before the law. The work undertaken at Dundee Law School forms part of a wider network of pro bono work in Scottish universities, with Strathclyde, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and the West of Scotland each offering differing forms of assistance to the public.

  • In order to further the project, assistance from the local legal profession would be most appreciated. In particular any local solicitor willing to assist with supervision should contact Professor Fiona Raitt at f.e.raitt@dundee.ac.uk or Eamon Keane at e.keane@dundee.ac.uk.
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