News - February 2010

Legal Advice Centre opens

19 February 2010

A new, free legal advice service has been officially opened at the University of Hull.

Alan Johnson and Frank Dignan open legal advice centre

Staffed by law students, the Legal Advice Centre will offer guidance to the public on a range of issues including welfare and benefits, housing, debt advice and consumer rights.

Although the University has a long tradition of law students gaining legal experience in the community, it is the first time it has run a service of this kind. The Legal Advice Centre was officially opened by Home Secretary and Hull West and Hessle MP, the Rt Hon Alan Johnson.

Unveiling a plaque to declare the Legal Advice Centre open, Mr Johnson spoke of the inspiration students can draw from the examples of trawlermen in the city who set up their own organisation to defend their working rights, and also of Hull alumnus Lord Ronald Dearing, who encouraged universities to engage with their communities.

Mr Johnson said: “Law is a great profession for students to be going into, as there will always be people in our communities who will need their help. To give people the opportunity to go along and access free legal advice is a great asset for the University and the city of Hull.”

Following the opening ceremony, Mr Johnson was given a tour of the Centre, which is based in the Wilberforce building on the University’s Hull Campus.

It will open to the public for the first time on 24 February, with drop-in sessions every Wednesday between 1pm and 5pm throughout term time.

Frank Dignan of the University’s Law School will oversee the Legal Advice Centre. He says it will provide benefits to both the community and the University.

“The Centre will offer students the chance to get hands-on legal experience, and will strengthen our links with the local community,” he explained.

“This is the first time the University has offered such a service and after months of preparation, we are all looking forward to the clinic opening its doors and welcoming our first clients.”

Initially the service will be a voluntary module for current Law students, but will eventually become an assessed element of the Law School’s offering. Twenty-four students will form the first tranche, working in groups to deal with clients’ problems.

Mr Dignan added: “The centre has already been very popular with students keen to get as much real-life experience of the legal profession as possible, and we envisage many more students will sign up when it becomes as assessed part of law courses in the future.

“Employability is at the forefront of many students’ minds in these competitive times, so projects such as this which helps boost their practical skills are welcomed.”

In setting up the project, Mr Dignan has built strong relationships with legal firms and public sector organisations in the area. The University’s Legal Advice Centre will work in partnership with organisations including the Hull Community Legal Advice Centre, Citizens Advice Bureau and both Hull and East Riding councils, as well as solicitors firms Hamers and Stamp Jackson Proctor. It is hoped these relationships will continue into the future and provide further opportunities for students, such as training and work placements.

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