Specific Activities arranged by the UWC Legal Clinic
Along with our daily activities we also had specific excursions arranged by Mr. Jassiem in conjunction with the UWC Legal Aid clinic. The first of these excursions was a meeting with Legal Aid South Africa. This meeting was to re-‐negotiate the services provided by the UWC legal aid clinic. We were able to go to the Legal Aid South Africa main offices in Cape Town and for the first time in my trip I realised exactly how large the reach of legal aid was as the organisation provided specific and extensive help to the citizens of the various townships in and around Cape Town.
I also undertook a trip to the Magistrate’s Court in Mitchell’s Plain, a township near to the University. At the Magistrates Court I sat in on a number of hearings from domestic abuse to malicious damage of property to being caught smoking cannabis or “tuk” as the locals know it. Additionally we were given a tour of the male and female holding cells in the court and were also given the opportunity to talk with some of the inmates of the famous Pollsmoor prison. This was a particularly eye-opening experience as the inmates gave me a particularly detailed summary of the gang culture in the prisons.
One Pollsmoor inmate in particular described to me how the gangs were broken into three different factions, the 26s, 27s and 28s. The numbers each represented different crimes that an individual had to commit in order to inducted into a specific gang. The 26s were known as the thieves, to be a part of the 27s you had to draw blood and to be part of the 28s you had to commit a murder. The inmate did express is displeasure with the gang culture but did also reiterate that it is part of their daily life inside the prison and outside and the only way out of the gangs was by death. There is no doubt that the prison system in South Africa fosters the gang culture and that without some sort of serious reformation an already growing problem will become even more out of control.
Along with the Magistrates court we also attended the Guglethu township community court. The Community courts were an initiative started by the government to curtail crime with the idea that if you wipe out crimes at a lower level it would be wiped out at a higher level.
The community court deals with petty crimes and would usually give punishments for the betterment of the community such as maintaining the community garden. While I do agree this is a good initiative, the criminals in the community courts have the fact that they were charged with a criminal conviction placed on their record.
This criminal conviction makes it significantly difficult for persons who were charged with petty crimes to apply for government-‐based jobs such as joining the police force. It is my opinion that if the crime and punishment is merely a minor offence without a significant impact on society then a full criminal conviction should not be placed on a person’s criminal record for such minor circumstances as it would impede those who attempt to better their lives when seeking employment.
“Giving is a universal opportunity. Regardless of your age, profession, religion, income bracket, and background, you have the capacity to create change.”
Laura Arrillaga-‐Andreessen – Philanthropist
Pro bono activity has always been an important part of my experience in completing my law degree. As an LPC student in City Law school I had undertaken various pro bono activities including working in City University’s student advice center and City Law school’s own legal clinic. In July of this year I was awarded the Ubuntu scholarship from the City Law School, this allowed students from the LPC and BPTC courses to work in the legal advice clinic of the University of the Western Cape (UWC) in South Africa as legal interns for one month. As an aspiring solicitor I felt that this was a chance for me to not only see how the law functioned in the context of a different country and with people who had very real and different problems, but to further build on the skills that I had learned on the LPC course at City.
The Legal Clinic at the University of the Western Cape is a public interest law clinic that provides free legal services to vulnerable and indignant communities in Cape Town. The clinic mainly specialises in Civil matters with the corporation of Legal Aid South Africa and also has a very active street law program which is run by the legal students.
Throughout the course of this blog, I will aim to provide an overview of my daily work with the law clinic as well as any special activities and specific trips that are undertaken with UWC’s street law group as well as some insight into the research tasks and functioning of Legal Aid in Cape Town South Africa.
Daily Tasks in the UWC Legal Aid Clinic
As part of my daily tasks in the Legal Aid Clinic I would sit in on the client consultations with the legal students at UWC. The clinic would see a large number of clients every day in either the morning or afternoon sessions. These clients came from the poorer communities and townships around Cape Town and their problems ranged over a variety of legal issues including divorce, eviction and simple contractual disputes, however the clinic mainly dealt with civil cases.
14th October heralded much excitement at City after five students on the Legal Practice Course won the 2013 Fresh Minds Commercial Negotiation competition, held in the board room at Mishcon de Reya.
Sharon Kimathi, Rekha Makwana, Stephen McNeill, Hammad Naveed and Joshua Schuermann beat teams from the University of Law and BPP to secure first place and an invaluable in-house work placement each.
The competition was judged by a prestigious panel including Paul van Reesch Vice President, Legal at Coca-Cola Enterprises Ltd. He says he was impressed with the City team's performance:
"Despite fierce competition, it was team work which ultimately made the difference for the winning team. What stood out for me was the way in which all members of The City Law School team contributed to the negotiation and, when the going got tough, how they pulled together to overcome the challenges from the other teams."
Linda Jotham, Deputy Programme Director of the LPC at The City Law School, was responsible for putting the team together and preparing them for the competition.
"I am immensely proud of our students' success against such strong opposition. The City Law School has an excellent track record in legal competitions and I'm delighted that we have added to that. Negotiation is a key skill for commercial lawyers and the students will have learned a great deal from participating and from the mentoring which they received."
You can read the full story via the City University website.
The competition was established by Fresh Minds Legal in response to a perceived lack of in-house commercial awareness at a junior level.
You can see some footage of the students in action on the Fresh Minds videos of the event.
Kate Lowdon, who undertook her LPC at The City Law School in 2012/13 has been awarded the Gamlen Prize.
The Gamlen Prize was established in memory of the Gamlen Family, and is awarded annually to a Trainee Solicitor who is either a member of the City of Westminster and Holborn Law Society (the Society), or who has arranged a training contract in the Society's area. The Society make particular reference to St John Gamlen, "the last of five generations of solicitors and a meticulous and sparing draftsman".
In June of each year The Holborn Law Society writes to each LPC provider in their area, asking them to nominate one or more of "the most promising candidates" with particular regard to "the candidate's ability to reduce a complicated subject to simple and lucid language which is suited to a law client".
The London Legal Walk took place on 20th May, with over £575,000 raised for charities which provide free legal advice. Taking part in this 10K stroll around London were 7500 lawyers (482 teams), including the Lord Chief Justice (Lord Judge), the Master of the Rolls (Lord Dyson), the President of the Supreme Court (Lord Neuberger), the Director of Public Prosecutions (Kier Starmer QC) and the Attorney General (Dominic Grieve QC MP). Cuts to legal aid have made this annual event more important than ever.
Pounding the streets of legal London were a team from The City Law School, with Chris Lowney and Ellen Gordon-Bouvier alongside 10 students. Ellen tells us a little more about the walk:
The London Legal Walk is an annual event where law students, solicitors, barristers and members of the judiciary walk a 10 k course across London to raise funds for pro-bono clinics and legal advice centres in the South East. As many people know, Legal Aid is in the process of being all but obliterated by the government and access to justice for those who cannot afford to pay is a major concern. Pro-bono clinics offer an invaluable service in many areas, including debt, housing, family, employment and immigration law. City University itself offers pro-bono services to the community in conjunction with the Mary Ward Legal Centre. Funds raised from the legal walk will help places like Mary Ward stay open.
Chris gives his account below:
All quite enjoyable, if a little painful for the knees – over 6 miles on concrete. 10 students plus Ellen and I. Departed at 5pm from RCJ. Through Temple, along Embankment, Horse Guards, St James’ Park, across HPC, (nearly lost 4 of our party here to a no73 bus, as we misread the traffic signals!!) along south side of Serpentine, over the bridge – halfway point, then back along north side of Serp, major chaos at second visit to HPC, where we encountered the vast majority of the walkers from law firms – starting a bit later – stopped the traffic, then back through Green Park, Mall, Traf Sq. and Strand to RCJ.
Back at 7pm; 2 hours. More photos taken. Given drinks vouchers for much-needed restorative gargle. Main Hall of RCJ a sea of tired walkers, including 3 massage tables for the seriously wounded; CLS walkers did not avail of massage facility!!! But did avail of alcohol facility. Met Simon Innes and Prashant Sagar who were part of the security operation; this was apparently required as there had been a rumour that a movement called Fathers for Justice would pull some stunt to disrupt things, due to the august presence of the Lord Chief Justice and the MR, whom we didn’t meet but were presumably dousing their blistered paws in hot salty water somewhere.
RCJ got very crowded and began to resemble the Somme in 1916. Being a tad squeamish, we retired to the Law Society Hall where more drinks vouchers – and free drink – were made available. The main reading room looked a tad like Glastonbury with prone or squatting track-suit or lycra-clad bodies everywhere. I maintained the appropriate standard of décor and decorum by wearing suit and black shoes throughout. I mean, after all, we are supposed to be Officers of the Supreme Court of Judicature. I cannot, alas, say the same for Ellen. We encountered no security problems anywhere.
Ellen and I departed around 9pm to leave the few remaining CLS students to continue their recovery programme, through more vouchers.
Some final words from Ellen:
Personally, my legs are pretty sore but it was a very enjoyable evening (the drinking was more enjoyable than the walking to be honest). It is great that we have raised money for such a good cause.
The student walkers were:
LPC Interim Director Linda Jotham says: The CLS LPC is proud to have participated in this event, raising the profile of – and funds for – this important cause.
LPC students at City met up with their mentors at the end of April in an evening of networking at Grays Inn. Organised by Deputy Programme Director Linda Jotham, the legal practitioners acting as mentors were largely CLS alumni with others coming from respected law firms across London.
Mentors will offer informal advice and guidance as well as a window into the realities of their work, and are committed to at least 18 months contact.
Most of those acting as mentors will be 2 years qualified; meaning that they still remember the qualification process clearly! Linda Jotham and the LPC team did their utmost to try to match mentors and LPC students carefully, whether by size of firm or area of practice.
Mentors came from a diverse range of specialities; litigators in professional negligence and financial services, corporate lawyers, pensions lawyers, private client, family practitioners and property lawyers. There was also a spread with those from large magic circle firms, medium-sized City firms, provincial firms and high street practices. There were criminal practitioners and those from local authorities too. Those with more out-of-the-ordinary requirements were also catered for, with one student being matched up with an equestrian lawyer.
Jo Joyce completed the LPC at City Law School in 2009 and subsequently secured a training contract with Shoosmiths. She says she is delighted to be able to return as a mentor:
"I particularly enjoyed the small collegiate environment of the City LPC. The tutors know you by name and continue to take an interest as your career progresses. What really sets City apart is the high quality of tuition - the lecturers are experts in their field but they are also excellent educators."
What did the LPC students think?
"It was a fantastic opportunity to talk to someone in a firm about what its like to work in certain levels of firm, and to talk to him about what I want and where he would recommend. He was very nice and very helpful. He has kindly offered to review some of my applications and make suggestions of where I may have gone wrong and to ask around as to whether there would be any work experience opportunities in the types of firms I would be seeking a training contract at." (Aimie Farmer)
Young Lawyer magazine has joined forces with NCLT to give you all the opportunity to win a free place on their flexible part-time LPC, worth a whopping £5,900. To secure the prize simply write a feature for Young Lawyer on the very topical question:
Should assisted dying be lawful?
The course place can be taken up a any of the regional centres: Bristol, London, Manchester or Southampton and includes tuition fees, course materials, examination and certification. As the winner, you'll also get to see your essay in print!
See full details and how to enter on the Young Lawyer's website.
Closing date is 11th July so get writing!
Lisa Pearson's piece for the Law Society Gazette discusses the frustration of finding that many lawyers don't have 'the ability and desire to really talk to clients'. Read about her ideas for changing things via inclusion in the LPC.
Having spent the two years prior to doing the CPE writing for an e-commerce magazine, I already knew that I wanted to work as an e-commerce/IP lawyer. According to my research, there were only two law schools in London offering electives in e-commerce and commercial law. What swung the pendulum in favour of The City Law School was the idea of attending the same law school as Mahatma Ghandi, Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair. The successes of the alumni certainly said a lot more about the quality of the education at The City Law School, Grays Inn Place, than the school prospectus.