A study into situated learning through community legal companionship

Ben Waters, Jeanette Ashton

Abstract


Against the background of the current graduate skills agenda and its considered importance in relation to a UK law degree, this article considers the value of the CLOCK Community Legal Companion scheme, a collaborative social justice project involving law students, legal services providers, third sector advice agencies and law courts based in two areas of the country namely; Canterbury and Brighton. In recent years, the UK Government has significantly cut civil legal aid in areas such as housing, family and welfare benefits, with a view to easing the strain on the deficit. These cuts have been opposed by many, including lawyers, who have raised concerns that the most vulnerable within our communities could be left unrepresented in court and as a consequence an undue burden placed on our civil justice system. CLOCK therefore provides an opportunity for those within our communities who are caught in the so-called ‘justice gap’, to gain support and guidance from law students when they attend court unrepresented. The findings of a small-scale research project into the perceived benefits of Community Legal Companionship, conducted at two UK law schools; Canterbury Christ Church University and the University of Brighton, indicate that the socio-legal experiential learning opportunities for undergraduate law students presented by such initiatives, are also valuable in terms of legal skills acquisition. The research shows that the scheme not only enables law students to use their legal knowledge for the benefit of their local community, but also through analysis of their own perceptions, demonstrates how such a community-based project can provide undergraduate law students with valuable employability skills. Experiences of setting up a Community Legal Companion scheme, together with an overview of how the scheme operates in the Canterbury and Brighton County Courts, as well as students’ reflections of participating as Community Legal Companions drawn from the empirical qualitative research, are evaluated in this article.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.19164/ijcle.v25i2.721

Copyright (c) 2018 Ben Waters, Jeanette Ashton

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

ISSN 1467-1069
ESSN 2056-3930