Situated learning through the CLOCK legal companion scheme

Conference paper


Waters, B. and Ashton, J. 2017. Situated learning through the CLOCK legal companion scheme.
AuthorsWaters, B. and Ashton, J.
TypeConference paper
Description

This paper introduces the CLOCK Community Legal Companion scheme, a collaborative social justice project involving law students, law firms, third sector advice agencies and law courts. Initiated by Keele University’s law school due to concerns over the rise in the number of self-represented litigants, following implementation of the Legal Aid Sentencing & Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO Act) and the associated reduction in legal aid, the scheme is designed to assist self-represented litigants at courts local to the participating laws schools in the post-LASPO era. Law students acting as Community Legal Companions assist self-represented litigants with legal form-filling; bundle preparation; signposting to appropriate legal and third sector services and accompany litigants in person to hearings along McKenzie Friend principles by taking notes for them.

Drawing on the experiences of the scheme at two of the participating universities: Canterbury Christ Church University and the University of Brighton, Ben Waters and Jeanette Ashton outline the role of the Community Legal Companion and how the scheme operates in their respective court centres. They share their experiences of setting up the scheme and of their students’ reflections on volunteering as Community Legal Companions.

Situated within a pedagogical context of experiential learning and clinical legal education, the paper also reflects upon the project based research undertaken at both institutions. This includes the responses provided by the students to an initial questionnaire about their experiences as they embarked upon their Companionship role, and the responses received to a follow-up questionnaire after students had undertaken the role for the three-month period. When presenting the research findings, consideration is given to students’ perceptions of the Community Legal Companion role; their motivations for volunteering for the scheme; the preparation and training they received from academic leads, legal partners, third sector partners and the courts; the challenges presented by the role; the supportive link made to their academic studies and the opportunities for key skills acquisition. Perceptions of employability enhancement and the likely impact of the role in supporting students’ future careers are also considered.

Whilst there is a considerable body of literature on the well-known and perhaps more established clinical legal education model i.e. that of the university-based law clinic, this paper contributes to the research from the perspective of experiential learning in the context of the court environment through situated learning opportunities. It is argued that such socio-legal active learning initiatives enable law students to learn about law in context, in this case by assisting self-represented litigants who are often at their most vulnerable, with some having poor levels of literacy and many being thoroughly bewildered by the court process.

The findings of the study reveal that the CLOCK Community Legal Companion scheme, as well as bringing benefits to the wider community, enables law student volunteers to develop key skills, build links with legal and third sector partners and to feel part of a community of practice.

Year2017
ConferenceAssociation of Law Teachers Conference 2017
Publication process dates
Deposited16 Jan 2018
Completed11 Apr 2017
Accepted author manuscript
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