Yorkshire Students Launch Legal Education Pilot for Local Charities

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Aspiring student lawyers gave the first in a series of free legal education sessions for local charities today, with the support of professionals at Simpson Millar.

StreetLeeds - Loren, Molly, Toby, Georgette, Emma Blackstone and Emma Brooksbank

Part of a public legal education scheme called StreetLeeds, the sessions have been launched in response to demand for legal knowledge from voluntary sector organisations in the region.

Street Leeds is a collaborative project between local law firms and four law schools: BPP University Law School, the University of Leeds, Leeds Beckett University and the University of Law.

Kicking off the pilot scheme, four students gave a presentation at immigration charity, Meeting Point to an audience of charity representatives and people currently seeking asylum in the UK. Toby Earnshaw, Georgette Lutterodt, Molly Curtis and Loren Martin were mentored by local immigration lawyer Emma Brooksbank from Simpson Millar in Leeds. They spoke about how to assist a client who has been taken into detention, and provided information about how to secure a client’s release on temporary admission or on bail.

Emma Crossley, Project Manager at Meeting Point attended the session. She said: “Detention especially is a huge issue for many of our beneficiaries, and the law in this area is extremely complex. Any opportunity to gain further legal knowledge about detention and asylum was one not to be missed.

“Navigating legal jargon is especially challenging for people facing detention or who have been refused asylum. People who attend our drop-in clinics can rarely afford a solicitor and they don’t know how to get legal aid. Being able to speak to someone who understands their situation and who has a basic understanding of the law can be hugely reassuring.”

Over the course of the next six months, 40 students will deliver various workshops in Leeds– supported by 20 mentors from the region’s leading law firms. In addition to immigration, the sessions will also address the law relating to housing, family, criminal and employment matters.

The mentors work with the students to ensure the quality of the legal content in their presentation is accurate. Before running the workshop, the students receive a training session at their mentor’s law firm– including how to engage an audience and communicate effectively.

“When I heard about StreetLeeds, I instantly wanted to take part – not least because it was a chance to work alongside solicitors from the region’s top firms. This project is far more engaging and ‘real’ than any other volunteering opportunities out there,” said Toby after delivering his part of the presentation.

Georgette Lutterodt added: “Immigration is hugely topical and a much broader area of law than people think. Finding myself to be delivering legal information to people who need it right here, right now was inspiring.”

Emma Brooksbank who is head of Simpson Millar’s Immigration team mentored today’s group of students. She said: “My team did a great job at the first presentation – not least in highlighting just how complex immigration law is and what the core challenges are. Reading about the law is very different to answering questions face to face and taking questions from the floor; today I think my four the students got a taste of that.”

Before the project was launched, a comprehensive survey of 30 key service providers working with vulnerable and disadvantaged communities in the city highlighted a huge, unmet demand for basic legal information. Both users and voluntary service providers were keen to learn more about the legal issues they face and are asked to help with.

After the launch session, Emma Blackstone from StreetLeeds commented: “It was great to see the project in action today, for the first time. Over the coming months, our volunteer students will be working across a wide range of sectors where community groups and the people they represent face a myriad of legal challenges. Hopefully, both students and delegates will come away from the sessions with more experience, knowledge and confidence.”

The pilot scheme is officially launched at an event at Leeds Civi Hall on 1 February.

For more information about the program, email streetleeds@streetleeds.uk


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