University of Sussex re-opens and expands award-winning, free law clinics
By: Vicky Trendall Lane
Last updated: Friday, 4 November 2022
Residents, businesses and charities in Brighton and beyond are able to benefit from a wealth of free legal advice once more, following the re-opening of the University of Sussex’s award-winning law clinics – and the trial of a new one.
The nine clinics, known collectively as the Sussex Clinical Legal Education project, are run by more than 80 law students under the supervision of their tutors and qualified solicitors. Together, they offer pro bono legal services to members of the public in family law, criminal justice, housing and welfare law, employment law, environmental law, migration law and performing arts law.
The project’s mediation service is then expanding from being just a student offering, to providing free online mediation sessions to anyone hoping to resolve community, workplace, tenancy or neighbour disputes without court action.
The clinics, which re-opened on 5 October, are mainly located at the Freeman Centre at the University of Sussex, with some held at partnering solicitor firms in Brighton. While they mainly benefit the local Sussex community, anyone in the UK can use them. They run on Wednesdays during term time, and anyone interested can book the next available appointment by either emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, calling 01273 876797 or submitting a web form at www.sussex.ac.uk/law/clinical-legal-education/free-legal-advice.
An additional clinic in Streetlaw will also be piloted this year, where students will provide civic and law-related education to help members of the community understand their rights on everyday scenarios and matters. Led by Sussex senior law lecturer and qualified solicitor Jeanette Ashton, the programme is being trialled at a local Hove community lunch club for older people, where law students will discuss issues such as pension credit entitlement and other legal issues of interest with the guests.
If successful, there is the potential for it become a permanent addition to the Sussex Clinical Legal Education project, from the next academic year 2023/24.
Students will also continue to work with Citizens Advice in West Sussex to provide generalist legal advice to members of the local community, and on the CLOCK - Time for Justice project, in collaboration with the University of Brighton, to provide legal support to litigants in person who do not have access to legal aid.
Amir Paz-Fuchs, Director of Clinical Legal Education and Professor of Law and Social Justice at the University of Sussex, said:
“With the cost-of-living crisis, more than 50% of neighbourhood law clinics shutting down and legal aid being massively cut in the UK, there is an ever-increasing demand for accessible legal support.
“We are proud that the University of Sussex’s legal clinics are helping to fill this void in the community and beyond and, crucially, ensuring everyone has fair access to free and accurate legal advice. We’ve had some incredible successes, with our brilliant students taking on and winning complex cases in various areas including serious immigration issues and claims of discrimination in the workplace.
“In return, our students are getting valuable real-world experience with real life clients that helps to shape and strengthen their legal education and skills. It’s a mutually-beneficial service and I would urge anyone struggling with a legal issue to contact the clinic to see if we can help.”
Hannah Paige Park, a third-year law student at the University of Sussex who co-runs the Performing Arts Clinic, said:
"Law clinics are a valuable intersection between helping members of the public, or in our case charities, and enriching our personal education by contextualizing the law and how it affects real people’s lives. Our latest project is something I’m particularly proud of, as we’re working directly with a performing arts charity to review their contracts and policies for employees and public interaction. This means we are doing good charitable work, supporting children, supporting diversity and gaining invaluable experience all through one single project."
Since launching six years ago, the Sussex Law Clinics programme has won several awards, including the ‘Advice Project of the Year’ from Citizens Advice. For more information about the Sussex Clinical Legal Education project, visit www.sussex.ac.uk/law/clinical-legal-education, or to make an enquiry, email email@example.com.