Royal Holloway’s Greatest Needs fund enables the College to provide support where its impact can be most keenly felt. Discover how last year’s donations helped to fund a new Legal Advice Centre, and its far-reaching impact
Thanks to the generous donations made to our Greatest Needs fund from our alumni community, Royal Holloway established a new Legal Advice Centre in January 2020. Offering free legal advice to the local community, the campus-based centre is student-led under the supervision of a practising solicitor, and has engaged other volunteer solicitors from five partner law firms.
Not only does the Legal Advice Centre give back to the local community by offering much-needed support to often extremely vulnerable people, it also provides our students with invaluable work experience. From interviewing clients and researching the law to providing written advice, the centre provides students with experience across family, contract, consumer and housing law, among others.
Street Law Clinic
Alongside day to day legal advice, the centre also runs further outreach projects, including the Street Law Clinic. Street Law developed in the US in the 1970s with the purpose of empowering communities with legal knowledge. Our Street Law Clinic has enabled our student volunteers to deliver interactive legal workshops under the supervision of qualified legal professionals, or academic members of staff.
Refugee Law Clinic
Student volunteers have also been recruited to collaborate with the Refugee Law Clinic, set up by the School of Advanced Studies, an inter-collegiate project of the University of London. Our students at Royal Holloway were able to provides pro bono legal advice for refugee clients. The Centre’s other projects include working with the Afghanistan and Central Asian Association (ACAA) on a research project to examine the impact of COVID-19 on vulnerable people within the Afghan community.
“This research has allowed me a to delve deeper into the financial consequences of the pandemic in England and has developed my understanding of not just the basic economic impacts of Covid-19, such as job losses, but also how this has led to greater struggle in the lives of the public,” says Jasmine Urry (BSc Sociology and Criminology).
HMP Coldingley Legal Advice Clinic
The HMP Coldingley Law Clinic in partnership with Creighton and Partners Solicitors sees our students providing free legal advice remotely to prisoners at HMP Coldingley on family law matters. “The HMP Coldingley Clinic provided me with the opportunity to gain invaluable real work-experience like no other,” says student volunteer Vanesa Yakimova. “It allows you to help clients with real life problems that you cannot see in the Law Text Book. I am tremendously proud to be part of the project.”
The project has also been a positive experience for the prisoners. “The men are now more confident that things will progress more positively and they can achieve some level of contact with their children,” says Katie Littleboy, Connections Family Worker at HMP Coldingley. “The staff, students and solicitors have not only provided advice, but also reassurance and compassion. I am very grateful, as are the men, for the support being provided.”
For the student volunteers, the Legal Advice Clinic has been a hugely enriching addition to their experience at Royal Holloway. “The Legal Advice Centre provides truly unique and invaluable opportunities,” says volunteer Olivia Smith. “It provides us with the chance to get hands on experience interviewing clients. This enables us to learn and more importantly develop the key skills required for a future career in law.”
“I would strongly recommend any students who are thinking about joining the Legal Advice Centre do so!” says Student and LAC volunteer Remi Gruzska. “It really gives students a feel for what being a solicitor is like, with not just problem questions like they have during their teaching but real life cases that they can work on – cases that can have an impact on the lives of the people that they are helping with real cases and gaining real experience.”
Funding for the Legal Advice Centre has also enabled the employment of a full-time legal assistant to assist the Centre’s Director, Nicola Antoniou, to undertake more projects, increase student volunteer numbers, and take on new volunteer solicitors and fund their professional indemnity insurance.
“We are extremely grateful to those who gave to the Greatest Needs fund. Those donations have helped us to continue to keep the doors open of our student-led Legal Advice Centre,” says Nicola Antoniou, Director of the Legal Advice Centre. “The students have developed key skills that will prepare them for their legal careers and it has provided them with an opportunity to deal with real people with real problems. With continued support from generous donors we hope to be able to to continue to provide this invaluable service, and so the financial assistance will make a real difference.”
Our students at the Legal Advice Centre have been awarded with the College’s Outstanding Community Action Volunteering award, which reflects the value of what they have achieved.