Legal Advice and Representation Unit
The Legal Advice and Representation Unit (LARU) is an optional module on the final year of the LLB, and forms a great example of practice-based learning at the School of Law.
Final year students who do the module dedicate a specific amount of time (usually one day per week) to work in local Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB), other not-for-profit advice centres, with a firm of solicitors, or at the Birmingham City University Law Clinic.
Students gain essential practical skills in interviewing and advising clients, conducting research on their cases, drafting legal documents and negotiating on behalf of clients. If you choose to work with the BCU Law Clinic, you will gain advocacy experience at the social security tribunal.
These placements thus provide a perfect opportunity not just to apply academic knowledge to real-world problems, but also to practice the people skills needed in the world of work.
Entry is restricted to the number of placement places available. For the BCU Law Clinic, 24 places are available, with a further 35-40 available with the other options.
We have excellent links with local Citizens Advice Bureaus, including Sandwell Citizens Advice Bureau and Dudley District Citizens Advice Bureau, as well as with other pro bono providers of legal advice and local firms of solicitors.
Students interested in taking the module are required to apply for a place and, in the case of placements at Citizens Advice Bureau, undergo a formal interview as if they were applying for a proper job. This in itself is excellent practice and preparation for the future. Interviews are usually conducted with the LARU Director, Chris King, and the manager of the CAB in question. For the BCU Law Clinic, the interview will be with the Law Clinic Coordinator, Samantha Gargaro.
Students on placement receive training from experienced staff in the skills and substantive areas of practical legal knowledge that they need to advise clients:
- Students handle real legal cases (under supervision of experienced staff) – covering issues like employment law, welfare benefits appeals, debt cases, housing matters, consumer law, criminal injuries compensation appeals.
- LARU students are assessed in part on the practical skills they demonstrate on placement, which will include some or all of the following: interviewing and advising; writing and drafting; legal research; negotiating; advocacy; complying with the rules and procedures of the placement organisation and of LARU.
- Students on the module also maintain a reflective journal throughout their time on placement. Towards the end of the year they submit a portfolio on which they are assessed consisting of their reflective journal entries, an essay based in part on the reflection in their journals, and a case study detailing the work they did on one particular case they worked on while on placement.
The LARU option is a great way for a student to improve their chances of securing a training contract or pupillage. Practical experience gained on placement as part of the LARU module will make the student stand out from the crowd, and might well make that crucial difference when applying for training contracts or pupillages.