LA0843 - Student Law Office [LPC Elective]

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SYNOPSIS OF MODULE

The Student Law Office (SLO) elective comprises a semester of work on real cases under the supervision of practitioner members of staff and solicitors from a local legal aid law firm, Ben Hoare Bell LLP.

The elective takes the form of a triage-style outreach programme where clients are offered one-off appointments. Students conduct 30 minute interviews with the client, discuss the advice with their supervising solicitor or barrister, and then provide the client with advice in the last 15 minutes of the interview.

This is followed up in writing with an advice letter and a proof of evidence setting out the facts of the client’s case.

Background:

The Student Law Office is an in-house law centre within the University. It has been running for over 20 years. All of the work done within the Student Law Office is free of charge. In 2014-2015 students dealt with 853 enquiries from the general public, with 21 supervisors working with the students.

The SLO and the LPC:

This module descriptor covers the LPC Elective. The SLO is also offered as an elective on the BPTC (including the MLaw (BPTC Exempting) Degree) and on the MLaw (LPC Exempting) Law Degree.

On the Legal Practice Course, students will work with one supervisor throughout the year, generally specialising in a particular area of work (such as employment or housing). This supervisor will normally be responsible for all marking, for the delivery of firm meetings, and may also supervise students’ work on live client cases. However, solicitors from Ben Hoare Bell will also be responsible for the supervision of cases and for providing feedback to the student. This enables the student to see a wide variety of areas of law and to work with a range of solicitors with varying degrees of experience.

Due to the short nature of the elective (10 weeks) it is not possible for students to undertake all the work on their clients’ cases. Experience has shown that the most students can do is to conduct an initial interview, carry out research and perhaps provide advice. As such, the elective has been designed to maximise the experience students will have. Over the course of the 10 week elective they will see approximately 2-4 clients, conduct interviews with them and then advise in writing. The introduction of the proof of evidence as a means of recording the client’s instructions also introduces formal drafting skills.

In addition to developing the full range of lawyering skills, developing effective workplace skills and enhancing their own interpersonal skills, students work with their supervisors to reflect on their learning. This reflection is at the heart of the clinical experience, enabling them not only to learn from their learning but also to fit their individual experiences into a wider context including issues of personal and professional ethics, and the social and economic contexts of law.

Legal Practice Course Outcomes

This module is designed to meet part of Stage 2 of the Legal Practice Course.

The SLO has a particular role in developing:

1. Legal and general intellectual skills
2. Law in practice and professionalism
3. Commercial and business awareness

INDICATIVE READING LIST OR OTHER LEARNING RESOURCES

The module makes use of the Library’s Electronic Reading List which is made available on eLP and which is updated each academic year to include new materials including the most up to date research on clinical legal education.

OUTLINE SYLLLABUS

1. Students will conduct cases on behalf of members of the public. They will carry out a range of professional services that would be expected of in an advice-only legal practice, other than being required to charge for their services.

2. Students will work in groups of up to a maximum of 7 with a designated supervisor, who will be a member of staff with a practising certificate and with relevant clinical and legal experience. There will be a fortnightly “firm meeting” of the students with the supervisor – but in reality there will be regular discussions of cases and of tasks. In addition to the firm meeting there may be ad hoc joint meetings with students from other firms. In addition, a fortnightly outreach session will take place at the offices of Ben Hoare Bell LLP in Byker, Newcastle upon Tyne. During these sessions students will work closely with members of the profession learning from their experiences and expertise.

3. A detailed syllabus is not applicable – but the range of tasks likely to be undertaken is set out fully in the Learning Outcomes (see below).

i. Interviewing clients, taking instructions and advising clients
ii. Preparing correspondence as required on a file
iii. Preparing research reports on issues requiring investigation arising from their cases
iv. Drafting client statements
v. Preparing case strategies and identifying appropriate next steps in relation to a case

vi. Reflecting on their development of the above skills
vii. Discussing and identifying the influences affecting the conduct of a case and application of black letter law.

4. Types of work undertaken will vary from year to year, dependant on supervisor specialisms and on public demand for legal services. The current areas of specialism are:
a. Employment

b. Housing
c. Welfare Benefits
d. Business and Intellectual Property
e. Crime and criminal appeals
f. Freedom of information
g. Human Rights
h. Inquests
i. Criminal Injuries
j. Family (including international family)
k. General civil, including consumer

AIMS OF MODULE

The module aims to bring together practical and academic understandings of law to enable students to develop higher level practice skills, underpinned by the ability to critically evaluate both their own performance and the role of the lawyer.

Students not only develop the workplace skills to work effectively as legal practitioners, but are also able to bring to bear their legal knowledge to solve problems in a systematic and creative manner.

Through this module students develop the qualities needed for employment by showing the development of sound judgment, personal responsibility and initiative, and an understanding of the nature of professionalism and of personal service.

In particular the module aims:

• To enable students to develop as reflective practitioners through the undertaking of real legal practice in a supervised environment.

• To develop in students an increasing degree of autonomy in learning and applying legal skills.

• To inculcate in students the habits of reflection and evaluation of performance which will enable students to learn from their learning.

• To enable students to make the transition from student status to the requirements of a professional, including the shift in learning from a subject-centred to a client-centred approach.

• To develop the skills required to become effective legal practitioners and in particular the skills of interviewing, research, drafting and case management.

• To develop students’ awareness of the professional responsibilities and obligations of solicitors and barristers and to foster a culture of client care and adherence to the rules of professional conduct for lawyers, as well as adherence to Student Law Office procedures.

• Satisfy part of the requirements of Stage 2 of the Solicitors Regulation Authority Legal Practice Course.

• To facilitate an awareness of wider social, cultural, ethical and political forces that shape the legal system and of the relationship between legal theory and the realities of legal practice.

• To develop in students the ability to use their developing legal knowledge and skills to solve complex legal problems, and to apply that experience in the range of legal contexts.

LEARNING OUTCOMES

Students should be able to

[a] Development of legal skills

• Undertake cases under the supervision of their supervisors, running the cases in a way which achieves their clients’ goals. In particular this will require students to:

i. Assume responsibility for the conduct of Student Law Office cases as allocated by the supervisor.
ii. Take instructions from clients in an effective manner
iii. Identify client goals and the range of potential pathways to achieving those goals
iv. Identify with accuracy relevant issues of law, and apply legal principles to the facts of the matter
v. Develop writing skills so as to be able to communicate effectively in writing, and to set out clearly and with precision legal issues arising in research contexts
vi. Identify where further factual information is required, and obtain such information effectively
vii. Identify evidential and practical issues which may impact favourably or adversely on the client’s case
viii. Develop tactical and strategic plans to ensure that the case develops as effectively as is practicable
ix. Develop file management and time recording skills so as to be able to effectively record all actions on cases



x. Be aware of the possibilities of mediation and other strategies for resolving conflict and achieving the clients goals
xi. Be aware of costs issues and other factors that might impact on risk benefit for clients
xii. Identify professional conduct and other ethical considerations, and correctly applying the ethical rules in those situations.
xiii. Work independently and as part of a team, and work effectively with their supervisor, to achieve client goals.

[b] Reflection, evaluation and self development

In addition to these practical learning outcomes in relation to case management, students will also:

• Develop the ability to reflect on work undertaken in the Student Law Office and to learn from their own learning so as to:
• Be able develop their legal skills throughout the year by identifying areas of strength and weakness with a view to implementing future development plans
• Be able to assess both the cases that they have conducted and their own performance in terms of wider academic, professional and socio-economic contexts
• Be able to articulate their own personal development during the year, and the development of their own theories of lawyering and of professionalism

[c] Workplace skills

• Develop strong personal organisational skills, particularly in relation to individual time management and other workplace skills
• Develop team working skills, by working within their firm and in partnership with other students.
• Develop advanced problem solving skills, and in particular the ability to solve complex issues systematically and creatively.


[e] Legal Practice Course outcomes

Through the achievement of outcomes [a] to [d] above, students will meet the Stage 2 LPC outcomes in respect of the areas of law and practice covered in the Student Law Office.

In particular they will

• Demonstrate their knowledge and understanding and employ the applicable skills
• Use the legal knowledge, skills, procedures and behaviours appropriate to each client case
• Identify the client needs, then plan and progress the matter
• Identify the client's goals and alternative means of achieving those goals
• Deal appropriately with client care
• Investigate and identify all relevant facts and legal issues,
• Advise the client on the legal consequences of different courses of action
• Recognise and act within the rules of professional conduct
• Identify and respond to the client’s reasonable expectations as to quality and timeliness of service.

PREREQUISITES

NONE

COREQUISITES

NONE

DISTANCE LEARNING DELIVERY

N/A

LEARNING AND TEACHING STRATEGY

Clinic and experiential learning

This module is founded upon clinical and experiential learning, see above.

Students will work in groups of up to a maximum of 7 with a designated supervisor, who will be a member of staff with a practising certificate and with relevant clinical and legal experience. There will be a weekly “firm meeting” of the students with the supervisor – but in reality there will be regular daily discussions of cases and of tasks. In addition to the firm meeting there may be ad hoc joint meetings with students from other firms. In addition, two advice sessions will take place at the offices of Ben Hoare Bell LLP in Byker, Newcastle upon Tyne and one advice session in the Student Law Office. During these sessions students will work closely with members of the profession learning from their experiences and expertise.

ASSESSMENT STRATEGY

a Summative assessment

All student work is closely supervised by the supervising solicitor in conjunction with (where appropriate) a solicitor from Ben Hoare Bell LLP, including every draft of letters, courts documents, interview plans etc. Students submit a personal file of their work and will present a reflective piece which forms the evidence base for the mark awarded.

b Formative assessment

The clinical experience is based on students receiving continuous feedback on their performance. Formative assessment will in reality take place on a regular basis for most students. That process is formalised both through the weekly firm meetings, and through the keeping of a portfolio with all drafts of work and of feedback.

The level of feedback is therefore exceptionally high, and drives the learning process. In order to ensure a fit with the summative assessment, there is a formal mid-sessional meeting between student and supervisor, with completion of mid-sessional form where both assess the student’s work against the relevant grade descriptors, as well as identifying specific issues for reflection.

b. Feedback strategy

See above. Feedback is a continuous aspect of the clinical experience.

IMPLICATIONS FOR CHOICE

N/A

Course info

Credits 1

Level of Study Postgraduate

Mode of Study 1 year full-time
1 other options available

Department Northumbria Law School

Location City Campus, Northumbria University

City Newcastle

Start September 2019

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