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Reviewing the Legal Advice Clinic

Tony Martin, Head of Legal Clinics, reflects on the last academic year and looks forward to this one.

It is always a pleasure to reflect on the performance of the BPP Legal Advice Clinics during the summer. I cannot help but be impressed by the sheer dedication of our students who, alongside undertaking a difficult course of studies and (for many) seeking further training or employment opportunities, find both the time and motivation to provide pro bono legal advice. Fortunately, that dedication is matched by the Clinic Managers and by the external supervisors, without whose supervision we could not provide professional advice.

This time of year is also an opportunity to consider the feedback from both clients and students. Overwhelmingly this is positive and demonstrates two things. Firstly, how important pro bono legal advice is to individuals struggling with complex legal issues. Secondly what a great learning experience the Clinic provides. For many students advising in Clinic is the highpoint of their time at BPP University.

In many ways the figures speak for themselves. BPP Legal Advice Clinic received 2302 enquires, advised 434 clients, represented or acted as a McKenzie Friend for 20 clients, recovered £36,243.86 in damages or costs, had a 90% client satisfaction rate. The work involved 435 students and 57 volunteer supervising solicitors/barristers.

BPP provides a wide range of advice operating across BPP’s seven centres and works with volunteers around the country, as well as internationally. This year we expanded our Clinics by opening a General Law Clinic in London (to compliment those we have long run in Leeds and Manchester) and Welfare Rights Clinics in London and Leeds. Even with our wealth of experience launching new clinics, particularly in new areas of law, is not always plain sailing and there were some difficulties in getting these new clinics running at full capacity, something that I am confident that we will resolve next year.

It was very gratifying that our contribution to pro bono was recognised. We won the award for Best Contribution by a Law School at the 2022 LawWorks and Attorney General Student Pro Bono Awards – the second time win of the prestigious award for BPP, the first being in 2020. The Awards celebrate the best pro bono activities undertaken by law students and law schools – recognising the quality and impact of pro bono work and the support this offers for individuals and communities who cannot access legal advice services. BPP Legal Advice Clinic was one of the first in the country to move online at the start of lockdown. Virtual Clinic appointments at BPP are now, however, a regular service and have increased the geographical reach of the service for clients and volunteers and enhanced the student learning experience.

Thank you to all at BPP who contributed to the successful year: students, staff and external volunteer supervisors. Without your enthusiastic support none of what we do would be possible.

The coming year will see a number of changes in the BPP Legal Advice Clinic. We will reorganise our General Law Clinics under a new team of Clinic Managers and provide advice in Birmingham, Leeds, London and Manchester. We will consolidate and expand our Welfare Rights Clinic and reach more clients. In the Family Clinic we will register with the HMCTS divorce portal as a legal advice provider and consider offering more opportunities to students to support clients with divorce Petitions.

The Enterprise will expand the number of partners we work with. The Housing Clinic will strive to meet the huge demand we face.

We will launch another new clinic, for the first-time providing immigration law advice at BPP.

Our two Trainee Solicitors are due to qualify this year and – like our previous trainees – we are sure that they will go on to become successful junior solicitors. The route to qualification of solicitors is changing. Many students will be seeking Qualifying Work Experience (QWE). This represents both a challenge and an opportunity. At BPP we will be replacing our Trainee Solicitors with five initial 6-month paid QWE appointments in September 2023 – the only university to do so. Candidates will need to be current or former BPP students who have undertaken pro bono work at BPP or elsewhere.