Whatever happens next I will remain grateful for the opportunities I’ve had with the LAC: it’s boosted my CV, it has challenged me, and it has kept me motivated even on bad days.
More about Kathryn
What experiences have you had through our Legal Advice Centre (LAC)?
I have worked on the following projects / services: FRU (Employment), Miscarriage of Justice Project, Autism Law Service.
Can you please tell us about your FRU case and how long you worked on it for?
First Case, September 2017 to January 2018:
I successfully represented my client in a constructive unfair dismissal claim. The Respondent was a National company that instructed solicitors to prepare and an experienced Counsel for the Final Hearing. My client had been given a cost warning prior to the Hearing, but the Employment Tribunal Judge confirmed that the dismissal was unfair. The ETJ was complimentary of my written submission and cross-examination technique in his summary.
Second Case, March 2018 to May 2018:
This was an Unlawful Deduction of Wages claim that raised additional (not explicitly pleaded) issues, which I worked on from March 2018 to May 2018. Default Judgment was entered in my client’s favour after the Employment Tribunal Judge accepted my arguments in a Preliminary Hearing that the Respondent had been effectively served with the claim and that the additional issues had been sufficiently pleaded.
What was your role?
As a FRU Rep, I had sole responsibility – under supervision – for both conducting the case and carrying out Tribunal advocacy. This covers numerous areas: client-care and interviewing, including (but not limited to) all correspondence, cross-examination, drafting, legal research, negotiation, written and oral submissions.
All told, it is a huge responsibility – it is not a matter of merely keeping up with the workload (and your studies). You have to do the best you possibly can for your client.
What skills do you think you have developed as a result of your work through the Legal Advice Centre?
Conducting a case and carrying out advocacy engages and develops the skills you will need as a lawyer in practice. Having effective responsibility for those areas itself encourages a high level of professionalism. For me, the most valuable skills have been client-care and advocacy skills.
I have found it important, in terms of client-care, to be practical as well as empathetic. This has been really appreciated by those clients, and has also complemented core BPTC subjects such as Opinion Writing and Conferencing.
In terms of advocacy, while I practised cross-examination on the BPTC, those exercises (and the final exam) are deliberately limited in terms of scope so that factual, legal, and procedural issues can be covered in the 10-15 minutes you get. It does not compare to being able to prepare – and carry out over several hours – a comprehensive, forensic cross-examination from real-life facts. It was through this, and my closing submissions, that I was able to persuade the Tribunal that my client’s case was the more believable version of events.
Do you have any tips or advice about how other students can get involved?
As well as attending the recruitment lectures, keep a lookout on NLS Pro Bono’s NOW page for new opportunities. If you are applying to the Legal Advice Centre then make sure to get your application in on time – if it’s late then they won’t look at it.
For taking the FRU test (Employment or Social Security) – make sure to pay attention to what they tell you about the law (and the test) at the training day. The question is not designed to trick you. When you get the test make sure to read the question and the supporting materials thoroughly, think your answer through, and then (sort of like a Maths exam) show your reasoning when you’re writing up that answer.
What support have your received from the Legal Advice Centre during your experience?
I am really grateful for the support I have received from the LAC. The supervision with FRU has challenged and encouraged me – I’m a better, more technical lawyer for it. The LAC team are friendly and supportive; whenever I have needed to talk someone has always made the time.
What did you learn from working on a FRU case?
How much I enjoyed real-life advocacy: there is no real substitute or simulacrum for the adrenaline rush and the fact that someone (who, in the case of FRU clients, would otherwise have represented themselves) is relying upon you to put their case at its highest.
Do you have any advice for prospective students considering working at the Legal Advice Centre?
If you’re considering it, and can make the time for the work, then do not hesitate in putting yourself forward for roles. At worst, you realise early that it is not for you. At best, you can improve access to justice and make a real, positive difference in your clients’ lives.
Try not to treat it as something to just tick off on your CV. It will only boost your CV if you can actually show what skills and/or insights you have gained through the work.
Do you think your experiences will benefit you in the future?
It already has. I have a PSU placement over the summer (having been recommended by the LAC) and I am taking up an Employment Law Paralegal role at a regional Law Centre in September. I was offered the job precisely because I was able to evidence the practical experience of conducting casework and carrying out advocacy that I gained with the FRU (I also would not have met the Person Specification without it).
What are your future plans?
In the short-term, I’m looking forward to applying the skills I’ve gained with the FRU/LAC and on my course to my new job. In the longer term, I still hope to become a barrister.
Whatever happens next I will remain grateful for the opportunities I’ve had with the LAC: it’s boosted my CV, it has challenged me, and it has kept me motivated even on bad days. Because the work really does matter and really does make a difference.