The College of Law is launching three new telephone advice lines during National Pro Bono Week to offer free legal guidance to employees experiencing problems related to employment rights.
The new advice lines, manned by students and fully qualified employment lawyers, are based at the College’s centres in London Bloomsbury, Manchester and York and supplement the College’s existing employment rights lines in Chester, Birmingham and Guildford.
The service is aimed at people, who may otherwise be unable to afford access to legal guidance and are just one part of the College’s award-winning pro bono work across the country.
Lindsay Ward, Senior Pro Bono Co-ordinator at The College of Law said: “These schemes allow students to get experience in dealing with real cases and also help the local community. Students gain valuable first-hand experience of client relationships, legal research and drafting while at the same time benefitting people, who may otherwise not have access to legal guidance.
“We have launched them during National Pro Bono Week to attract more solicitor volunteers and to raise as much awareness of them among the public as possible."
National Pro Bono Week runs from November 9 – 13 and comprises nationwide events to celebrate the range and impact of pro bono activity undertaken by solicitors, barristers, legal executives and law students.
On Thursday (November 12) students from the College’s Bloomsbury centre are running a workshop on sentencing for A-level law students at Thomas Tallis School in Blackheath, London. The event is part of the College’s year-round Streetlaw programme and will involve Bridget Prentice MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State in the Ministry of Justice and local MP as well as the area’s other local MP Clive Efford.
The College students will support 40 pupils aged 16 – 18 as they act out different roles in mock sentencing hearings with the MPs playing the part of judges and delivering the sentences.
Streetlaw involves students working directly with schools, community groups and prisons to raise awareness about different areas of law, including criminal procedure, immigration and asylum, welfare rights, rights on arrest, education and company law.
Meanwhile Birchlyn Conte, a former Legal Practice Course (LPC) student at the College’s Bloomsbury centre, has been shortlisted in the student category of the Junior Lawyers Division Pro Bono Awards 2009 due to be announced on Thursday at the Law Society.
While studying for her LPC Birchlyn volunteered with the College’s Legal Advice Centre, trained as a caseworker for the National Centre for Domestic Violence and volunteered as an information officer for the Royal Courts of Justice Advice Bureau.
Birchlyn, aged 32, decided to give up her previous career in customer support and office administration and convert to law as she is keen to represent those in society, who are taken advantage of due to lack of knowledge of their rights.
The College of Law’s pro bono activities received a further boost recently when the work carried out at its Chester centre was praised in Parliament by the Solicitor-General Vera Baird QC MP.
During a recent Solicitor-General question time in the House of Commons Vera Baird said: “The College of Law at Chester has a long and proud history, and it is good that - to use a cruel metaphor - two birds are being killed with one stone. People get much-needed help, and at the same time the younger generation of lawyers start to understand the need for such work and the ethics of the profession into which they are moving."
She was speaking in response to comments by City of Chester MP Christine Russell about the College’s activities being a good example of how to encourage young lawyers to appreciate the value and need for pro bono work.