#HertsHeroes: Hertfordshire Law Clinic

Today our Herts Heroes are all the members of staff and students who have been working in the Hertfordshire Law Clinic. Not only have they continued to support students and staff throughout this difficult time, they have also offered lots of advice to those outside of university walls.

We spoke to the teams behind this fantastic work to find out a bit more about what they have been doing and how the team have been getting on.

What does the Clinic do?

The Law Clinic has been working with housing solicitors, including Cheryl Gaunt from Just for Kids Law and Ruth Camp from Shelter, to provide free legal advice to those who are struggling during this time. This is not limited to housing; they have been giving advice in several areas of law including family and employment law.

The Clinic’s work is extremely important at the moment, as although the government has introduced emergency measures to protect tenants, the crisis has caused many people to lose their jobs and many are finding it difficult to pay their rent.

To find out more about the Hertfordshire Law Clinic, or to get advice and support visit www.herts.ac.uk/lawclinic.

Diana Kirsch, Director of the Hertfordshire Law Clinic commented,

“We are really pleased to be able to provide free housing advice during this difficult time when many people will be struggling financially. Since we launched two weeks ago, we have been overwhelmed with enquiries. We are very grateful to Cheryl Gaunt and Ruth Camp for helping us set up this desperately needed new service.”

Meet the team

Rebecca Howell, an Administrator for the University’s Law Clinic, tells us about how the clinic has adapted its service so that they can continue to support and give advice to those who need it:

About me and the Clinic

The Hertfordshire Law Clinic is located in the Law Court building at de Havilland. We work with leading local law firms to provide free legal advice to members of our local community. Our students get to work alongside the law firms giving them a great opportunity to gain work experience while they are studying.

As the Administrator for the Clinic, I look after the day-to-day running of our appointments. This involves referring new client cases to our solicitors for review, booking clients in for their appointments, coordinating our student and solicitor rotas as well as supporting our clinic students with any questions they may have.

Moving our service online

When the government announced that we all had to stay at home due to the coronavirus pandemic, we quickly starting to review our operations to ensure we could continue to provide our service.

Luckily the Clinic was largely paperless prior to the announcement as we have always used an online case management system. However, all of our client appointments took place face to face either on campus in the clinic, or at our satellite clinic in Hertford. We therefore decided to move these meetings over to Zoom with the students, solicitor and client all joining from their individual locations. We weren’t sure how this would work at first, but it’s proved to be a big success.

We have also changed the management of our telephone lines. Previously these were managed by our students who were working in the clinic. Now these calls come to myself so I can take the initial enquiry. I then pass these over to our students to follow up where they conduct a questionnaire to allow us to gather more information about the client's case, they would like us to support them with. We give them the option to hold these either by telephone or zoom.

Support for COVID-19

We know so many people have been impacted by the pandemic in many different ways, but one group in particular that we wanted to support were our own students and staff who are living in private rented accommodation. We wanted to ensure they could access legal support should they experience issues that may arise around housing law issues.

Our Director of Pro Bono, Diana Kirsch is very passionate about our service and therefore quickly made contact with a former colleague who works as a Housing Lawyer. Diana was able to bring her contact onboard to provide advice on Housing Law Matters and has enabled us to launch the new Housing Law Clinic.

The service launched on April 9 and we have already provided advice to five of our students and one member of staff.

If you need any support with property rental agreement, you can get in contact with us by emailing probono@herts.ac.uk or call 01707 284115.

Support from our students

The clinic has settled in really well to remote working and I’m so pleased we have been able to adapt and continue to provide our services. Our students in particular have quickly adapted to the change and have all embraced the use of Zoom.

One student that I need to mention is Tuba Abdulsabur. When the Covid-19 situation began, Tuba quickly emailed me to ask if she could provide any extra help or support to the clinic. Tuba has volunteered to attend a number of extra client appointments including 4 appointments in the Housing Clinic. Thank you Tuba!

How I’m coping with staying at home

During my free time I like to exercise at home as this makes me feel physically and mentally better. Exercise is a big part of my life, so I feel it is important that I keep this as part of my daily routine. I often do this in the morning before work and I find that it really wakes me up and sets me up for a productive day. I also go out for a walk every day after work to get some fresh air and stretch my legs. I have also been having a lot of video calls with my friends and family.

Hard work pays off

Due to their hard work, the Law Clinic have been shortlisted in two categories (the best new pro bono activity and student Sartaz Billing for best individual contribution) in the Attorney General and LawWorks Students Awards.

The Attorney General and LawWorks Students awards celebrate the best pro bono activities undertaken by law students and law schools and the positive impact this has on the wider community.

1. The best pro bono activity – Since the clinic opened in October 2019 it has been overwhelmed with demand from numerous individuals seeking family law advice, employment advice, housing/property advice and has helped many victims of domestic abuse. Since the Covid-19 outbreak, the team have been working extra hard to support those affected by the crisis.

2. Best contribution by an Individual Student – Sartaz Billing has made an outstanding contribution to the Law School’s Street Law project, helping to deliver the first workshop on Citizenship for Islington Refugee Forum as part of Refugee Week. Sartaz also provides support to Shelter’s housing court duty solicitor at Watford and Hertford County Court, helping vulnerable clients and ensure the smooth running of cases to help the duty solicitor.

“Sartaz is always committed to the different projects he undertakes and has a lovely warm manner with clients.”

To find out more information about the Attorney General and LawWorks Students Awards, and those involved, click here.

Thank you to both staff and students who have been involved in giving support to those who need it during this time. We are all very proud of you. Your hard work and determination during this time is truly remarkable. The work you are doing is incredible – you are all true Herts Heroes!


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