Our grantees| Barbora Smékalová| Queen Mary Legal Advice Centre
1. March 2019 Barbora Smékalová

Queen Mary Legal Advice Centre

Queen Mary University provides its students with many opportunities to put the acquired knowledge into practice. Law students can gain especially valuable experience at the Legal Advice Centre located at the School of Law. The Centre accepts clients who cannot afford paid legal advice and aims to offer services of the same standard as one can expect from a law firm.

First-year students can apply to take notes during meetings with clients and undertake administrative tasks necessary for the day-to-day running of the Centre. This is how my involvement with the Centre started. This year I successfully applied for the role of a student adviser, and I undoubtedly made use of experiences from the last year. In September, I flew to London a week earlier during which I participated in training that concerned various areas of the law, the client interview technique, drafting of the legal advice letter etc. 

There are three appointments throughout the academic year allocated to every student adviser. As the adviser, you receive basic information about the client and his legal issue. This summary excludes any confidential information such as the client’s name, address and so on. Every student must go to the Centre before his appointment to pick up his or her case file which contains all relevant documents. Neither the file nor any notes whatsoever can be carried out of the Centre. The advisers cannot consult their cases with anyone who does not work at the Centre. All work on the cases has to be done on computers located at the Centre.

The appointments always take place on Tuesday or Thursday evening. The advisers need to wear a suit, either black or navy blue with a white shirt. Four people are present at the appointment; a student adviser who leads the interview, a solicitor or a barrister who supervises it, a note taker and the client. The meeting lasts 45 minutes, and the goal is to gain all the relevant legal information from the client. The following day there is 'Breakfast Club' with other student advisers where we discuss our cases and the things in which we want to improve. In 15 days, the student adviser sends the client a letter explaining his or her legal situation and suggests steps the client may take. The lawyer who attended the client meeting checks the content of the letter.

I have attended two appointments as a student adviser and consider it a valuable opportunity to gain work experience and mostly to help people who are in a difficult situation. The greatest reward is positive feedback from clients and a feeling that you helped someone who needed it.

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