BPP Legal Advice Clinic (BLAC) – The Family Clinic
BPP Holborn student and BPP Legal Advice Clinic volunteer Pinder Saggu tells us about the scheme and why she got involved.
“I initially volunteered as a legal adviser during the pilot project, in direct response to the implications from recent changes to legal aid funding for family law advice.
A Little bit of background:
With effect from 1 April 2013 the reforms to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012, significantly reduced the scope of services covered by legal aid, to the extent where legal aid funding has been withdrawn from the most frequently seen family disputes.
Legal aid funding is now limited to cases of child protection and or where an individual is able to produced evidence of domestic violence within a relationship. Today the reality is that many family clients cannot afford to pay for the equivalent legal service, when faced with problems in other areas of family law.
The BLAC Family Clinic
Knowing very little about family law, nevertheless passionate about the implications family clients will now face for ‘access to justice’, I undertook the family law training. This really did prepare me to deal with the sensitive nature of the most frequently seen family disputes, to be able to offer practical support and practical legal advice to our family clients.
Advisers work in pairs managing their own case from pre client interview preparation, to conducting the client interview, followed by legal research and culminating in a letter of legal advice and/or discreet pieces of legal work. Throughout this we are supervised and supported by volunteer family law specialist Solicitors & Barristers from private practice, together ensuring a high professional standard is met within a professional environment complying with SRA guidelines.
The BLAC Family Clinic puts law into a practical context as you are participating in ‘real’ cases for ‘real’ clients. This helps develop key legal and soft skills that you will utilise throughout a legal career, such as understanding the importance of client confidentiality, adaptable interviewing skills, efficient research and legal drafting skills which are crucial in providing practical legal advice. It also helps develop skills such as listening to our clients and empathetically understanding the problems they are facing, which can in itself provide the reassurance and confidence that clients are not facing their problems alone.
The BLAC Family Clinic officially launched on the 16 October 2013, primarily to support those members of our community who cannot obtain help to run their own family dispute case. I have personally grown to understand the challenges our clients face when dealing with the legal system, which has enhanced my ability to be more client focused.
It has been a rewarding journey to be involved in the birth of a pilot project which will continue to serve our community and help the legal profession meet the unmet legal need by providing legal advice and assistance to those who may otherwise not have ‘access to justice’.”
To find out more about the BPP Legal Advice Clinic or any of our other Pro Bono Schemes click here