Case study

Providing free
legal advice to
individuals, families,
and businesses

The University’s Student Legal Advice Centre opened in February 2019, initially to provide help with family law matters. Since then, the Centre has worked with 850 clients, been highly commended for its pro bono work, and expanded its services — most recently by opening an advice clinic for small businesses and entrepreneurs.

The support we provide

The Student Legal Advice Centre was established to serve two important purposes:

  1. To provide law students with clinical legal practice education
  2. To deliver free advice to the community

Individuals can book appointments with law students, who provide advice under the close supervision of a qualified solicitor. Having grown its services substantially over the last four years to meet demand, the Centre currently offers help with:

There’s also a Legal Triage Clinic, exclusively for the University of Derby students.

Through its Justice Project, the Centre’s student volunteers also do outreach work, educating members of the community about legal matters, including schoolchildren.

Moving online

When the pandemic hit, the Student Legal Advice Centre’s service moved online (using Microsoft Teams) within a matter of weeks. Originally a necessity, these video meetings have now become the norm because they enable the Centre to help clients further afield or those who are unable to travel (making it more accessible and expanding its client base) and because they have substantially reduced the number of missed appointments. To maximise inclusion, phone calls are offered as an alternative, if necessary.

Kaye Howells

In the early stages of the Centre, clients were mainly making an appointment for one-off advice. In the Family Clinic now, we are seeing an increasing number of returning clients, or clients we are supporting throughout their legal matter.

Kaye Howells
Director of the Student Legal Advice Centre

The impact so far


As of January 2023, the Student Legal Advice Centre has worked with a total of 489 clients since it opened its doors. Client numbers have been increasing every year, with a significant 89% increase between 2020 and 2021, after services moved online.

In addition, during the first three months of the new Business Clinic (Oct 2022–Jan 2023), approximately 50 hours of work was carried out by the student volunteers and the supervising solicitor. This is expected to grow significantly over time, as the Clinic becomes established.

Applications for Exceptional Case Funding

The Immigration Family Reunion Clinic, which works with clients trying to reunite with family members in the UK, has been particularly successful at winning Exceptional Case Funding. 96% of the applications students drafted were successful, meaning that their clients secured legal aid and were able to instruct a solicitor and move their cases forward.

Client feedback

The Centre has received many positive responses from clients, including the following:

“Thank you so much for being consistently helpful in a time of chaos”

“Thank you so much! I am very grateful for your services and appreciate the support. I wish to personally thank [student volunteer] on behalf of my father and myself for the brilliant support she has provided on the day.”

"I would like to thank [student volunteer] and your team for the help and support given during my first hearing on Wednesday. It's been very reassuring to have a half-qualified person aware of the etiquette and procedures during the court. I believe she's got all the attributes that it takes to be a great lawyer, with a great abundance of empathy and compassion for people, which need the support she can provide.”

Student feedback

The Legal Advice Centre has also had a positive impact on the students who work within it, as this testimonial shows:

A law student in the courtroom

I have loved working in the Student Legal Advice Centre. Not only has it helped me to develop practical legal skills, but it has also helped to improve my emotional intelligence due to dealing with sensitive issues.

Sophie Spencer
LLB (Hons)


The Centre was highly commended at the LawWorks Pro Bono Awards 2021, for its Immigration Family Reunion Clinic, and was shortlisted at the LawWorks and Attorney General Student Pro Bono Awards 2022 for best contribution by a Law School.

Having only been operating for four years, the Centre continues to go from strength to strength.