Enhancing your employability skills with our in-house Law Clinic
At the School of Law we are firmly committed to providing excellent opportunities for students to undertake practical work experience to enhance legal skills and their employability with the added benefit of making a real contribution to the Birmingham legal community.
This is offered through the Birmingham City University Law Clinic.
Students can become involved with the Law Clinic by taking one of the assessed modules as part of their degree, or by volunteering for one of the Law Clinic’s many other projects. There is a variety of opportunities for students in all years of study.
Our new Law Clinic space opened in the Curzon Building in September 2019 and was launched officially in November 2019. This space is used to give advice to members of the community and provides a confidential space for students to undertake Law Clinic work.
Case Study A
Mrs YZ was an elderly woman who had applied for (Personal Independence Payment) PIP and been refused. She came to the Law Clinic and was seen by two of the Student advisers. The Student advisers perused the appeal papers and prepared a written submission. They then attended the Tribunal hearing and represented the client in an hour long hearing. Appeal was successful. Client entitled to arrears totalling £14000 and extra weekly income of £151.40.
Case study B
Mrs AB had been in receipt of the highest rate of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for many years. Upon transition to Personal Independence Payment (PIP) she was only awarded the standard rate of both the daily living component and the mobility component of PIP. She appealed to the Tribunal. However, when she attended the hearing she was informed that the tribunal did not feel that the points which had been awarded were justified and she risked losing her award. The hearing was adjourned for her to seek advice.
Mrs AB came to the Law Clinic. She was interviewed and advised by student advisers. After assessing her papers and medical evidence it was felt that she had a strong case and that the likelihood of her existing award being reduced or removed was very low. Further medical evidence was obtained from Mrs AB’s GP and sent to the Tribunal.
Mrs AB was represented at the Tribunal hearing and was successful. Mrs AB had her award increased to the enhanced rate of both components. The Tribunal also increased the length of the award by two years. This successful hearing means that Mrs AB will be £68.10 a week better off and also receive arrears for just over 3 years totalling approximately £11500.
Some of the organisations we work with include:
Central England Law Centre / Birmingham Law Centre
This combined Law Centre offers work experience in their office at Tyseley and staff also work with us on campus in the Law Clinic space. Students can become involved in the Welfare Benefits clinic as part of an assessed module in Level 6, or they can volunteer in areas such as Immigration, Housing and Employment. The volunteering posts, half days each week, are excellent legal experience and are akin to paralegal positions.
In 2019/2020 over 70 BCU students were involved with one of the Law Centre projects arranged by the Law Clinic. Some of our students were even able to represent their clients at the Tribunal for Welfare Benefits appeals.
Support Through Court (STC)
Students can volunteer at the county court in Birmingham, helping to assist those who cannot afford to pay for legal help. They can also volunteer to be a part of the new Support Through Court Helpline – a national service running from Birmingham City University Law Clinic.
The Helpline was established in March 2020 and staffed by BCU students. Volunteers on the Helpline provide procedural advice to those who cannot afford legal advice and are facing court cases alone. This is an excellent opportunity for students. From September 2020, we hope to place over 60 students volunteering with this charity.
There are also places for students to work with STC through the Level 6 assessed module.
Family Litigants in Person Scheme
Students are able to volunteer alongside practicing solicitors and barristers from the Birmingham area, giving legal advice to members of the community with Family Law Issues, who are not able to pay for advice.
This charity assists families of young people with Special Education Needs. Students shadow and assist a representative of this charity at the Law Clinic.
Law Clinic Success
The BCU Law Clinic welfare benefits clinic is part of the LawWorks network and was shortlisted for the “Best New Pro Bono Activity Award” (2020)
Students who are involved in the law clinic find their experiences to be very rewarding, not only because they are able to develop their own skills, but because of the difference they can personally make to the local community.
“In terms of the clinic success. I think this is easily one of my favourite modules in my whole undergraduate degree. It’s been fun and quite intense. I enjoyed the training says the clinic provided and I thoroughly enjoyed the client meetings. We face a range of problems but with the help of [my supervisors] it was quite easy to overcome them. I’ve had a chance to represent clients in court”.
“For next year`s students all I have to say is apply and go for it. It’ll easily be the best experience of your undergraduate law degree and I think I speak on behalf of all clinic students in saying that practical is better than theory”.
For more information, please contact Samantha Gargaro - Samantha.Gargaro@bcu.ac.uk