By Dominic Cook, Sheffield Hallam Law Student
SHU Law has established itself as a core part of the Sheffield legal landscape, serving the local community and beyond by taking on cases which more traditional firms simply can’t represent due to funding and other socio-economic issues. Its unique nature also provides first-hand teaching to Sheffield Hallam students, who gain invaluable insight into the workings of a practising law firm; an opportunity I have been so fortunate to take part in myself.
The global pandemic has inevitably caused a wide range of issues for SHU Law and many other businesses, having to transfer immediately to a remote setting, which is something a lot of us are not used to. However, SHU Law has been providing access to justice throughout the pandemic – whether that be advice surrounding the furlough scheme, employee rights, annual leave deduction; as well as SHU Law’s usual areas of law in personal injury and dispute resolution.
Across levels 5 and 6, Sheffield Hallam law students get the opportunity to work on live client cases under the supervision of a solicitor, directly contributing to how SHU Law provides pro bono services; whilst learning how to put the theory side of the law into practice. One of the most popular specialisms at level 5 is ‘SHU Law Contentious’ where some students stated that “it was a fantastic experience to be able to represent clients in a not for profit environment, knowing that we’ve been able to help people who either can’t afford or can’t access legal representation from a traditional law firm. This provides access to justice as everybody no matter what their background, deserves legal representation and for SHU Law to service Sheffield and the wider South Yorkshire is just incredible.”
Another hugely valuable specialism available at level 5 and 6 is ‘Sheffield Hallam Court Help Desk’ which provides a key pro bono service at Sheffield Combined Court. This service provides support for litigants in person (people with no legal representation), providing emotional support and help navigating the justice system. A student who was on the specialism said “we were able to provide emotional support, look over documents, answer any procedural questions and help people fill out a witness statement form. We were also able to go into a hearing and sit with the litigant in person and also sit in on settlement negotiations and explain any difficult concepts. The SHU Court help desk provides a really important pro bono service for litigants in person as it can be a hugely daunting and overwhelming experience. It was amazing to see how much we helped and supported people just by being around and available to help in any way we could.”
A brand-new specialism for level 5 this year is ‘SHU Law Enquiries’. This is a great opportunity as it allows students to see the life cycle of a case from the very beginning and establish if SHU Law can represent them and the process that follows. A student on this module said “it is a really enjoyable specialism being able to see the cases which SHU Law can take on, often from people that can’t get legal representation from other law firms (often due to financial difficulties). This also contributes to one of SHU Law’s fundamental beliefs on ‘access to justice’ and that everyone deserves legal representation; making society fairer and more equal.”
Especially in the current climate, having SHU Law available for any legal advice and representation has become ever more important. SHU Law’s pro bono services help those who are in real need of legal representation and simply have nowhere else to turn to. At the same time, SHU Law provides practical first-hand teaching to Sheffield Hallam law students with the key aim of widening access to justice at the forefront.