Charlotte White is currently undertaking the Diploma in Legal Practice at the University of Dundee having obtained an LLB in Scots and English Law in 2016. Here she talks about her experience as a Hearings Intern at the Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC).
During my degree, obtaining extensive and broad work experience with the high saturation of law students was always a challenge. Fortunately, I came across an advert for Hearings Interns at the Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC). The SSSC is the body responsible for regulating the conduct of social service workers in Scotland. It is to social service workers what the Law Society is to lawyers. Like many regulators, those registered with it can be subject to a hearing governed by its own set of rules but which is still subject to the civil rules of evidence and the Human Rights Act. I spent nine months in the hearing department last year which I enjoyed so much that I successfully reapplied this year.
What does a typical day as an intern look like?
A typical day in the office starts with updating case files with any contact that I’ve received from any of the parties overnight and then action their requests. Afterwards, I’ll prepare the case that I’m clerking that day and find out if there’s any extra evidence to go before the Panel. Once everything is collated, I set up the hearing room, meet any witnesses and Workers and ensure that they are prepared for the proceedings. When the hearing starts, my job is to ensure that it runs as smoothly as possible and I usher in the witnesses when they’re called. It’s also my job to inform the Panel of any correspondence I’ve had with the Worker and assure them that the paperwork was all sent within the correct time frame.
When I’m not in a hearing, I spend a lot of time on the phone to Workers, explaining the process and their rights to them. I also help the permanent clerks proof read legal documents and facilitate teleconference meetings to discuss arrangements at hearings. I’ve also been involved in researching changes such as the introduction of Legally Qualified Chairs and the move from a Misconduct to a Fitness to Practise model of regulation.
No day in the office is ever the same. In the month that I’ve been back at the SSSC I’ve been involved in hearings with vulnerable witnesses, video conferencing and interpreters, and I’ve even spent a day acting in educational advocacy videos.
What experience have I gained?
There are many benefits of my time spent with the SSSC. Firstly, it is well paid and flexible around my studies. Secondly, it demonstrates diversity in my work experience. With traineeships at a premium, it has been beneficial to show that my experience extends beyond the sphere of typical private practice and that I can apply my knowledge of the law to work under different legal regimes.
Most importantly, my customer service skills have improved. Often, those who come to hearings are concerned and confused and to show that I can answer their questions and reassure them on the spot is a skill that all law students should seek to improve, regardless of which area they wish to practice in. As interns are given a large amount of responsibility at the SSSC, it is hard to think of a transferable skill that hasn’t been improved; every skill from caseload management to collaborative working has developed.
Finally, as someone that has considered a career in Litigation for as long as I can recall, the opportunity to spend the majority of my working day watching solicitors examine witnesses and navigate the surprising turns that a case can take, has been the most invaluable and inspiring experience that I could have hoped for.
Applications for this position usually open between May and June and can be found at www.sssc.uk.com