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Pro Bono Week: Helping people who are representing themselves in court

Press release issued: 7 November 2019

As part of our Pro Bono Week series we talked to LLB Law student, Susie Burley, about her role in the Law Clinic's partnership with LiP Service that helped her #DoMoreWithLaw

What made you choose University of Bristol?

I was inspired to join the University of Bristol Law Clinic. When I attended an Open Day, I had the opportunity to see all of the things that the Law Clinic does in the community as well as being really intrigued by the practical skills I'd gain, so it's definitely motivation behind me applying to the University.

Tell us about the Law Clinic?

The Law Clinic offers pro bono legal advice to all different people in the community. We're going to different areas of the community and particularly to people who wouldn't otherwise have any access to justice. The actual service they provide is really valuable. I know many of my clients have been really positive about the impact that we have in the community.

What have you been working on in the Law Clinic?

For the last two years, I've worked on a variety of projects. One of them has been LiP Service which is run in conjunction with the University of Law, UWE Law School and the Law Clinic. We work together providing a service when we are going to the courts and we give informative presentations and to litigants and person to dispel any misconceptions they may have about representing themselves in court.

How have you found LiP Service?

LiP service is designed to help people who are representing themselves in court. We see litigants in person who needs some help and some advice about what to do when they get to court for their hearing.

It's given me a really good opportunity to go into the court and see how the law works in practice, particularly as I studied Family Law last year. One of the clients that we tend to see the LiP service are people going to do family proceedings. So I really got to see how what I was learning in the classroom and in the lecture halls, works in the courtroom and in practice and how it affects people's lives.

I just don't think that you get that same experience just from sitting in your seminar rooms.  When I was looking around universities, I didn't see anything quite like what Bristol has here with the Law Clinic.

We've got such an incredible office space. It's professionally run under the Academic Directors and qualified solicitors who provide all mentoring and advice. I think that is unique to Bristol and the sense that no other university has anything quite like what we have here.

What do you do at the Clinic?

At LiP service, we see clients who are going through civil and family proceedings. Two very different streams of the court process and people come to us at all stages of their Court proceedings, whether they're just beginning or they're about to go to their final hearing. They'll come to us with questions or just wanting to find out what it's like to represent themselves in court and a lot of people come.

Misconceptions and myths about local teams going to be like and our job is actually to calm the process down and to make sure that they're going in with a clear head and they know exactly the right things to do when they get to court on the day of their hearing. The idea behind this is generally that it will make the court function in a much more efficient way given a court time is so sparse.

Working with Law Clinic and LiP Service has given me a good opportunity to work out what it is I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I didn't really know when I came to Bristol for the first time and LiP service in particular, working with family clients has actually made me want to get involved Family Law and pursue a career as a family law Barrister in the future. This is something that I'm on the road to at the moment.

What are your future plans?

I'd like to do my Bar course and then go on to practice Family Law in the future. I will keep up my involvement with pro bono work. This motivation comes from my work with the Law Clinic and LiP Service.

Further information

Pro Bono Week is an annual occasion to recognise and celebrate the valuable voluntary contributions of lawyers giving free legal aid to those in need. Find out how you can #DoMoreWithLaw

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