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York St John University’s Law Clinic reopens to pursue justice free of charge

Monday, September 26th, 2022 12:00am

By Barbara Constable

Group shot of York St John Law Clinic

The York St John Law Clinic is once again set to serve those in the community who need legal advice but are unable to afford professional help. 

The York St John Law Clinic is once again set to serve those in the community who need legal advice but are unable to afford professional help. 

Based in the University’s Business School, the York St John Law Clinic has been providing free legal help and advice since its launch in 2020. Last year, students and professionals worked on over 150 cases covering a broad range of legal matters. 

 And, after a summer break, it is now welcoming enquiries from new clients who need legal advice and assistance.  

Chris Smith, a solicitor and Course Lead for LLB Law & LLM Legal Practice (LPC) at York St John University, said: “The cost-of-living crisis means accessible legal advice and help is more important than ever. There are people who may find themselves trapped in difficult situations that they are unable to resolve due to financial worries."  

Chris, who supervises students in the law clinic, added “We offer advice to a range of clients and encourage anyone to get in touch. Many people find themselves in the ‘squeezed middle’- which means they earn too much to qualify for legal aid, but nowhere near enough to pay legal fees. Those are the people who the York St John Law Clinic aims to help.” 

The York St John Law Clinic works in close partnership with other legal service providers across the city to signpost clients to the most suitable legal help, and to ensure the service complements those that are already on offer in the community.  

For example, staff work in partnership with the City of York Council to help EU nationals completing applications for ‘settled status’ and support the victims of hate crime. The CLOCK scheme, in partnership with law staff and students at the University of York, helps individuals going through court proceedings on their own. 

The initiative also provides a unique learning opportunity for the University's final year undergraduate and postgraduate aspiring solicitors, as they work directly with clients under the supervision of qualified solicitors. This year, the York St John Law Clinic will have some 90 student advisors. 

Last year, students at the university played an integral role in investigating the safety of the conviction of Robin Garbutt, who was convicted in 2011 of the murder of his wife, Diana, in Melsonby, North Yorkshire. Students’ careful analysis of the medical and scientific evidence in the case enabled them to write a letter to the Criminal Cases Review Commision, urging them to refer Mr Garbutt’s case to the Court of Appeal on the grounds that the evidence relating to the timing of Diana’s death undermines the safety of the conviction.   

Amongst the first cohort on the LLM Legal Practice (LPC) course in 2021, 17 out of 21 have already secured graduate jobs before they have even completed their studies. 

Find more information about legal aid and how to get in touch on the York St John Law Clinic website or call 01904 876976.

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