Since 2013, Middlesex University has collaborated with the Salvation Army's Christian Centre in Wood Green to support a free 'drop-in' pro bono legal advice clinic on Wednesday afternoons. The clinic offers advice on a range of welfare, housing and other legal issues, meeting the needs of an area of London where ordinary people often struggle to find access to affordable legal advice and, therefore, access to justice.
In this time, a number of our law students have volunteered at the clinic, providing a 'triage' service under the supervision of two lawyers (one a retired government legal service barrister) and gaining experience of immeasurable benefit in the process.
Lawyers from the Wood Green Clinic have also contributed to the curriculum at Middlesex, further assisting our student's learning.
One of those gaining pro bono experience at Wood Green is LLB Law student Haben Beraki. She explains why she decided to volunteer her time, how it complements her degree and what is adding to her CV for the future.
What were your motivations for taking part in the Clinical Legal Education programme at Middlesex?
My two main motivations for taking part in the clinic were to firstly, further enhance my knowledge of the law and to also gain an insight on how I can help those most vulnerable and seeking help in my local community of Haringey.
"To be able to help the community I’ve grown up in is immensely rewarding"
What role do you play at the Wood Green Clinic?
I am one of the student team leaders at the clinic, but my main role is to assist the legal advisors alongside my fellow student volunteers. I normally begin with welcoming new clients by finding out who they are and what their legal problem is. After this, I’ll usually sit in during the client’s meeting with one of the legal advisors, making notes on the matters discussed, the advice given and any action required.
How does it relate to your course/what you’d like to do in the future?
This experience greatly complements the law material I’m currently learning and is a magnificent insight into what my potential future career as a solicitor may entail.
What does it feel like to help the local community?
To be able to help the community I’ve grown up in is immensely rewarding and further stimulates my ambition to become a solicitor.
What skills have you learnt so far?
My experience at the clinic has taught me a number of skills including problem solving, teamwork, communication and the ability to work under pressure.
What advice would you give to others thinking of volunteering?
I would definitely recommend any students interested in law to volunteer. This invaluable experience is a fantastic way to gain a unique insight into the day-to-day work of legal professionals.