Shadow Attorney General visits Student Legal Advice Centre

15 March 2024

Students providing pro bono legal advice to local community members under the supervision of qualified solicitors discussed their work with the RT Hon Emily Thornberry, Shadow Attorney General, during her visit to the University of Derby's law facility.

The Student Legal Advice Centre at the University’s One Friar Gate Square first opened in February 2019. To begin with, it offered a Family Law Clinic but has grown significantly and now operates nine clinics with advice and support on many topics including business law, immigration family reunion, and Special Education Needs and Disability (SEND) Law.

Students from the University’s Law courses work in the centre voluntarily, supporting its mission of improving access to justice for everyone in society, while gaining valuable real-world experience.

The Centre has seen a rapid increase in demand, with a 247% growth in the number of clients from its first to its fifth year. Particular areas of growth are in the Family Law Clinic and the Immigration Family Reunion Clinic, which helps clients seeking support to reunite with family members.

Ms Thornberry met staff and students and talked about her journey into law and politics. 

She was accompanied by Catherine Atkinson (Labour candidate for Derby North). Catherine is a practising barrister and chairs the Society of Lawyers, who provide legal advice to the shadow front bench.

A group of people smiling
Left to right: Sue Jennings (Head of Law), Rt Hon Emily Thornberry, Professor Lynn Saunders OBE (Head of School of Law & Social Sciences), Kaye Howells (Senior Lecturer in Law) and Catherine Atkinson

Kaye Howells, Senior Lecturer in Law at the University of Derby, is the Centre’s Director and previously practised as a solicitor for 14 years. She said:

“It was a pleasure to welcome Emily Thornberry to meet our students and see the great work being carried out at the Student Legal Advice Centre. The services it provides are incredibly important for individuals who cannot afford to pay for legal advice. There is an increased need for pro bono services like this, given the reduction in legal aid and the cost of living crisis.

“The Centre helps individuals access justice whilst also providing our students with the opportunity to experience valuable real world learning during their studies.”

Third-year Law student, Adaku Nwoko said:

“Volunteering at the University of Derby's Legal Advice Centre has given me the confidence in my ability to communicate effectively during client interviews, improved my note-taking ability and elevated my empathy level, through the practical experience of attending to clients. It has made me more aware of the life-changing potential of providing legal assistance to individuals who are struggling financially, who need legal support within the community and the relief they feel after advice and assistance is provided by the Centre.”

Find out more about the Student Legal Advice Centre

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