Nottingham Law School’s Executive Dean Jenny Chapman on the role of clinical legal training in a super-exam world Nottingham Law School’s Executive Dean Jenny Chapman Seven years ago, Jenny Chapman was in Chicago seeking guidance on Nottingham Law School’s latest project: launching the UK’s first student-staffed law firm .
Piquing Chapman’s interest was a new approach to university-led law clinics. During her “eye opening” trip, she discovered US law schools providing fee-generating legal services, while replicating the experience of working at a private law firm. Such hands-on experience, she found, was integral to how law students were trained.
This approach mirrored Nottingham Law School’s mission to transform clinical legal education. “As part of our commitment to access to justice, we already offered a legal advice clinic — but we wanted to take it to the next stage and really do something unique to prepare students for legal practice,” recalls Chapman, now Executive Dean of Nottingham Law School .
Soon after, Nottingham Trent University’s Legal Advice Centre was granted Alternative Business Structure (ABS) status by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) — transforming the humble pro bono clinic into a fully-fledged ‘teaching law firm’. Since then, the Centre has gone from strength to strength, winning many awards including, most recently, “ABS of the Year” at the Modern Law Awards 2020.
Under the supervision of the Centre’s qualified solicitors and support staff, student volunteers provide free legal advice on areas including social welfare, employment law and outreach services, as well as affordable commercial assistance to social enterprises, small businesses and start-ups. Since its inception, the Centre has recovered over £4 million in benefits and compensation for clients.
Now the Centre is to play a key role in the law school’s strategy for the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE). A “great leveller”, it provides an opportunity to contextualise black letter law, as will be examined in SQE1, while also equipping students with practical skills to be assessed during SQE2. “The Legal Advice Centre creates meaningful work experience and allows our graduates to develop the critical skills, ethical values and emotional intelligence relevant to the legal profession,” Chapman explains.
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