The client appointment
On the day of the appointment, our students will meet and greet the client, accompany them to the interview room, and then conduct the interview on their own. The students will use the interview to find out more about the facts relating to the client's issue; no legal advice is given during the interview.
Normally, the Supervising Solicitor will not take part in the interview but will be available to help with any queries (for some of our specialist clinics, the external solicitors will sit in on the appointment).
Over the next two weeks, the students will analyse the client’s problem, identify and research the key issues, and draft a letter of advice. The letter of advice will then normally be sent to the client two weeks after the date of their initial appointment.
What our students gain
There are so many reasons why working in the Clinic is beneficial for students. The most important one is that it shows students that legal problems do not exist in a vacuum. They do not come neatly labelled as a contract problem or a family law issue, for example. Sometimes the client’s problem is not actually legal but calls for intervention and support from other agencies. Other times, the client struggles to explain what their problem is, and it becomes the student's job to help the client articulate their questions.
As a result students will have to develop a whole range of skills which are different to those learnt on the law programme:
- Problem solving
- Active listening
- Legal research and accurate note taking
- Demonstrating empathy whilst at the same time maintaining professionalism.
We also know that employers value the experience that students get from working on real life problems. It helps students develop what are known as 'soft skills' which employers are often looking for, exposing students to the difference between knowing the law and practicing the law. Because many of the cases students will encounter involve people at the sharp end of political and legal decisions, involvement in the Clinic forces students to think about how laws are made, who makes the laws and what can be done where well intentioned policy results in bad law.