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I was slightly daunted by the prospect of working in the Kent Law Clinic as a student adviser in my final year.
I remember working as a receptionist in my first year taking calls from the public asking for help with their problems and wondering how a second or third year student could have gained the knowledge and understanding in how to deal with such complicated matters. But thankfully I was proved wrong.
You are tasked with major responsibility. Looking after a client’s case, doing all the necessary research, advising them, interviewing them, writing to the opposing side’s solicitors and maybe even represent your client in court.
But all of this work is supervised by your clinic supervisor: you sit down together once or twice a week and discuss the case at hand, and talk about the research you have conducted and learn to understand how to approach and mould the law to fit with your client’s problem.
We were allowed to pick our first case from a variety of different sectors: employment, access to land, housing, welfare benefits and immigration and asylum law. I opted for employment law based on the work experience I had conducted in the summer and since then I have taken on three cases covering the spectrum from discrimination to unfair dismissal.
I have researched almost all of the discrimination section of the Equality Act 2010, focusing heavily on transgender and maternity discrimination. These particular cases sorted themselves out, which is bittersweet after the amount of research you conduct but it is good to know that problems can be resolved without our help.
Currently, I am the know-it-all regarding the Employment Tribunal’s newly implemented fees versus the County Courts.
My current case will be challenging my ability to be flexible, focused and astute because we are constricted to a three-month time in which to submit a claim to the Employment Tribunal. Over the next few weeks I will be meeting my client, interviewing them to understand the crux of their issue and what they want to receive, ploughing through the evidence and nit-picking my way through to find our arguments that will trump the opposition’s… after all, I am beginning to learn that whoever has the best argument, wins.
Working in the clinic involves hard work but it is really rewarding, especially when you hear about your fellow students returning from court winning cases on their own and seeing the amount of compensation they have won for their client… another thank-you card to go up alongside the hundreds we have received.
Lucy Nicholls-Belassie is a third year law student at the University of Kent