Nia and Kelly - Law Clinic Students
What does being involved with the Miscarriage of Justice Project entail?
Kelly: It involves working alongside the charity, Inside Justice. Their Advisory Board gives us a case to review whether someone is factually innocent and we then work on this case investigating this.
Nia: Absolutely, we work alongside multiple agencies and ask for help from experts. This allows us to understand the threshold for proof.
Kelly: And from their case we look at police transcripts of interviews with our client, then we research the evidence involved in a case to see if it still holds up in court. We also consider previous convictions and evidence methods which are now not considered sound in order to prove our client is actually factually innocent.
Nia: We work as a close-knit team to help a real person achieve justice and it is that same team doing the research and asking the questions to get to the point of proving an unsafe conviction.
What other opportunities are there from volunteering with the clinic? What is it like being on the Student Board?
Kelly: We attended an international conference with other universities in the UK and globally, we were looking at other legal clinics and the concept of legal clinic work around the world.
Nia: yeah, I loved that event it was really insightful and it stemmed from our work with the clinic. Kelly and I are involved with the Student Board which is a fantastic opportunity. This allowed us to put ideas forward for the clinic to develop. We’re constantly looking at ways we can enhance the clinic. We’ve met a few KC’s and other practitioners with valuable experience which really helps us. The law clinic has so many opportunities like the Amicus project, the clinic was accredited the Advice Quality Mark standard which is amazing. Kelly and I were friends before we joined the clinic, it’s really nice because we got to experience this together.
Kelly: The clinic has won so many awards, as a law student, being involved with the Law Clinic increases my employability due to the valuable experience I’ve gained. Other opportunities include giving housing advice, this is incredibly important due to the pandemic. I really like the idea of a Pro Bono clinic; it means everyone can receive the help they need.
Nia: I study Criminology and Criminal Justice; I’ve enjoyed being part of the law clinic because I’ve been able to engage in a project which I love. Once I graduate, I’d love to become a detective, this is something I’ve wanted to do for a while, my aspiration to become a detective feels so real and achievable now. I’m the first generation to attend university, I’m excited to show my family members what they can achieve if they believe in themselves and put their minds to it. The law clinic is a step closer to achieve my dream job.
Kelly: Students can only sign up to a certain amount of projects, this means more people will have the opportunity to volunteer with the clinic. Like Nia said, many students can achieve their ideal job, especially as the clinic has a great relationship with many law firms. This is brilliant for networking
Nia: Pre pandemic students were able to work for the food bank and representing the university at open days. Now students have been able to do digital takeovers on social media. The most recent was the environmental day.
Kelly: The Student Board is amazing because we can email the other board members and assess areas which we can develop. We comment on what we love about the clinic, and it all gets taken on board and implemented. As a student, changing the clinic for the better is a great feeling.
Nia: They are always asking our input and advice, it’s nice to feel listened to and to represent the students. We feel like we’re really valued as part of this clinic by staff and students alike. It feels like a really safe and enjoyable learning environment.
Kelly: Being able to communicate effectively is so important, especially working remotely.
Nia: Definitely, we also engage with other students which represent their project. It’s great because we bounce off each other well, we also discuss was sort of problems they’ve faced and how to overcome them. I think resilience is really important, especially during the pandemic.
Have you still been able to be involved with the clinic over the pandemic? What skills do you think you have improved through clinic work?
Nia: Definitely, Zoom has allowed us to work together efficiently, we’ve attended many events through Zoom.
Kelly: We haven’t had any problems transitioning onto Zoom either to be fair it felt relatively easy, a big thank you to all the staff who have made it so easy to transition onto Zoom and running the sessions because they go ahead without any issues every week.
Nia: We have learnt new skills due to the pandemic, such as a brand-new case management system. If we weren’t involved in the project we may not have used before. We have continued our professional development while also feeling like we are making the same progress in our client’s case while also developing the law clinic.
Kelly: Plus, we’re still able to talk to someone from Inside Justice for more understanding of something like how the police would gather evidence at a crime scene. We have not lost any of the things we would normally utilise in the clinic. And we are able to collaborate together through screen sharing so it has not impacted our work.
Nia: Events such as the international conference worked really well over Zoom, more events are moving online, so it’s really important we keep up with technology.
Nia: I have developed my time management skills, we have deadlines to meet, it’s important we get the work done in a certain time frame to ensure the client’s case is progressing. As a team, communication is key, especially as everything is online.
Kelly: I would also say our researching and investigative skills have definitely improved. Due to this work we have become knowledgeable about subjects we typically would not even know where to begin. I have really enjoyed seeing the application of the law and assessing its strengths and limitations.
Nia: I would also say my confidence has increased, especially considering how much we have grown from the very first meeting to now, both our ideas and presenting them to groups of people have had a positive impact. Pushing myself out of my comfort zone has really paid off.
Kelly: I remember that first session and just how nervous we were to get things wrong and to make suggestions in front of a big group of people in case we sounded silly, but I think Richard made us understand that all ideas are valid. Especially because we all come from different areas and that could influence how we see a scenario so sharing that means the client ends up in the best situation because we can investigate from all angles.
Nia: All the skills we learn are on the more practical side, each session allows us to come together and establish what we have and what our next steps are. I think we divide workloads and manage that well between us. My degree is about critically thinking, I can read between the lines. This is a brilliant skill to have, especially when making positive changes to the Law Clinic. More than anything, I’ve learnt how the law is applied in practice. This isn’t something I’ve experienced as a criminology student.
Kelly: Apart from the obvious things like working as a team, time management and effective communication, I have learnt to research evidence, especially as some evidence isn’t considered that strong now. I’ve really enjoyed researching the CPS guidelines and assessing the evidence we have. This isn’t something I’ve done before, but I love it.
Finally, what does the law clinic mean to you?
Nia: To me the law clinic is a safe space, my thoughts and ideas are valued and are always considered. It is also a professional working environment making me feel like my work is truly important whilst also showing me that in work its ok to ask for help. Being a member of the law clinic has given me many opportunities which will stay with me for the rest of my life and has allowed me to be confidence in everything that I do.
Kelly: to me the law clinic is a place where I can make real change and a real difference to people. It represents how important Pro Bono work is in the community around us and how when the justice system has negatively impacted a client such as with the miscarriage of justice project, we are there to catch them and help. It shows the impact a university can have not just for the students but on the community as a whole. Most importantly it is one of the best experiences I have had both at university and outside of it and I will never forget the impact it has had on me.