I catch David Collins just as he returns from a month in Russia, teaching World Trade Organization (WTO) law to Masters students at the Pericles American Business and Legal Education Project. Russia joined the WTO whilst David was out there, and the majority of these students are working at law firms during the day and swotting up on this new area of law in the evenings. He also lectured at Moscow State University of International Relations (MGIMO) and gave a presentation on the WTO at the American Chamber of Commerce during his stay.
Exciting things have been happening at City this past year for students interested in combining the fields of law and business. David launched an advice clinic providing legal and business advice to small businesses and start-ups in the London area, along with his friend Eric Klotz. Eric, who gained a PhD in Chemistry before turning to law, did the GDL at City and now supports start-ups in Dublin with law and business advice.
Named City Enterprise Services, the clinic ran from January - April of this year on Tuesday evenings, and was staffed by City students who were supervised by professional advisors: solicitors, barristers, accountants and a funding expert. Students were given grounding in relevant law: commercial contracts, IP, employment and business planning. It was made possible thanks to funding from the HEA, and its success has meant that this year (2012-13) students will be able to complete a whole elective on the subject as a third year undergraduate or second year postgraduate LLB. Those on our GDL course will get the chance to volunteer at the clinic in term 2 of the academic year.
Feeedback for this year from the students was exceptional with comments like these:
“It gave me as a student the opportunity to gain some practical experience and interact with clients” and “excellent opportunity to learn and apply practical legal advice”
I completed my LLB at City in 2010. The intention was to go directly onto the BPTC (Bar Professional Training Course) but during my third year, I applied for a role as a duty adviser. Following that application, a steep learning curve acquiring relevant law and a six month wait, I was told there was one position available and I should come in for an interview. That interview ended up lasting all day! I shadowed a solicitor and a barrister whilst they carried out their duty advising and was lucky enough to be able to attend four hearings that day to observe. At the end of my rather long interview, I was told that I had the position.
Duty adviser roles are almost exclusively taken by those who already hold rights of audience (there's more about this later), and I do have to point out that I am quite a bit older than the usual LLB graduate and as a result of that I have a significant amount of relevant experience (and qualifications) that enabled me to take up the duty adviser role and cope with it immediately – i.e. to use a familiar vernacular, I was able to hit the ground running.
What does a duty adviser do?
The role involves interviewing clients, providing legal advice, guidance on possible defences, negotiating with the claimant and representing the client in front of a District Judge (on occasions cases being appealed are heard by a Circuit Judge). The service is only available to defendants in repossession hearings and only on the day of the hearing.
On the surface it may appear that the only knowledge one therefore requires is to do with repossessions, however, the clients come into the court with a variety of inter-connecting problems, many of which have legal repercussions and therefore a broad legal knowledge is required. I am frequently dealing with issues arising from debt, welfare benefits, divorce, child law, immigration, prison, occupation orders and so forth, alongside the obvious areas of law we use on a daily basis, e.g. Housing Acts, Mortgages (Protection from Eviction) Act and relevant case law relating to mortgages, repairs, illegal evictions and so on.