Pioneering Keele collaborative legal outreach programme assists more than 6,000 people and impacts legal aid reforms to widen access to justice
A programme spearheaded by Keele University to help vulnerable and disadvantaged communities navigate the complex court system has helped over 6,000 people across the UK gain access to justice.
Community Legal Outreach Collaboration Keele (CLOCK) was created as a direct response to the significant withdrawal of legal aid under LASPO (the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act) in 2012.
CLOCK is a unique research-led project which brings together universities, law firms, barristers’ chambers, mediation, charitable and court services to educate, assist, monitor and promote access to justice for people facing barriers in the legal system.
Working with partner agencies, CLOCK created the role of Community Legal Companion (CLC); law students who work with litigants to signpost them for legal aid and - where public funding is not available - assist litigants in person with tasks such as filling in court forms, arranging court paperwork, accompanying in court proceedings, and taking notes.
Keele currently has 60 active CLCs and has trained over 340 companions since 2012, who have assisted with around 6,000 legal cases in that time, with Keele CLCs assisting with over 4,000 of those cases.
Since it was founded at Keele University, the project has grown to now operate in 10 university law schools across the country, including at Canterbury Christ Church University, Oxford Brookes, Liverpool John Moores and York St Johns, which operate a CLOCK Community Legal Companion desk in their local Court Centres. The project has also had an international impact in collaboration with the All India Access to Justice project.
Partners from the judiciary, legal and charitable sectors, students and alumni all came together recently to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the project, giving them a chance to reflect, thank and celebrate CLOCK’s national contribution to helping over 6,000 litigants in person, and contribute to the significant impact on the legal aid reforms.
The 10th anniversary event brought together students, CLOCK leads from partner universities, alumni, and a series of guest speakers to discuss CLOCK’s impact, its history, and its future.
Dr Jane Krishnadas from Keele’s School of Law, who founded CLOCK, said: “It was wonderful to hear about the life changing and lifesaving difference CLOCK Community Legal Companions have made to litigants in person, the outstanding contribution of our local legal aid law firm in training our Community Legal Companions to become the next generation of legal aid lawyers, and the significant impact of CLOCK’s research evidence on the legal aid review, extending the means test and legal aid for parents, and changes in the non-means test for parents and non-parents in family law towards keeping children safe.”
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