An introduction to CLOCK - Community Legal Outreach Collaboration Keele - with Dr Jane Krishnadas

Original video:

The Community Legal Outreach Collaboration at Keel, known as CLock, began as a direct response to listening to the voices of self-help group members who had escaped to domestic refuges. These individuals were concerned about how they would face their ex-partners in family court proceedings alone. This situation exemplified the national crisis faced by litigants in person, especially in the wake of the significant withdrawal of legal aid in private family law, housing, and welfare proceedings under the Legal Aid, Sentencing, and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO).

CLock is underpinned by a transformative rights methodology that centres on listening to women in times of crisis. This methodology was informed by experiences in India, which provided insights into intersectional and holistic transformative pathways for justice. These insights influenced the research-led teaching module called "Law in Action," where students reached out to community projects to listen to voices of experience and volunteered to assist litigants in person through court proceedings, becoming agents of change.

CLock co-created a steering committee comprising representatives from academia, the North Staffordshire Law Society (representing local law firms), charitable partners (ARCH, New Era, Savannah, YMCA, Staffordshire Mediation Services), and regional representatives of the court service, CAFCASS, the police, and the Crown Prosecution Service. Together, they designed and delivered a five-day program for the unique role of the Community Legal Companion. This role involves signposting for legal aid and, where not available, assisting within the remit of a McKenzie Friend. Responsibilities include helping with forms, arranging court papers, accompanying court proceedings, and taking notes.

The Community Legal Companion role has received endorsement from the President of the Family Court, offering valuable support to litigants in person in the absence of legally aided representation. The President wholeheartedly endorsed the work of local Community Legal Companions and encouraged the expansion of CLock across the UK court service. This expansion has reached universities in Sussex, Brighton, Canterbury, Oxford Brooks, Wolverhampton, Leicester, Liverpool John Moores, York St. John's, and the University of York, operating in eight court centres and assisting more than six thousand litigants in person.

CLock has been highly recognized, receiving the Access to Justice Foundation's Attorney General Award for Outstanding Contribution to Access to Justice and the Green Gown Award for Outstanding Benefit to the Community.

In 2015, CLock developed a unique public-facing direct access website to online signposts for law firms, mediation services, and charitable partners. They also created a live data generation and analysis site. CLock's findings have been published in various journal articles and books, contributing to public awareness regarding the impact of the withdrawal of legal aid, as reported by the BBC and The Guardian.

CLock's research has informed public awareness on the impact of the withdrawal of legal aid through BBC reports and The Guardian, noting CLock's call to recognize COVID as a social crisis. Recent papers have highlighted the increasing complexity of cases referred by public services and the scarcity of private legal aid.

CLock has submitted evidence to the Legal Aid Means Test Review, for which the Ministry of Justice has expressed gratitude. CLock eagerly awaits the publication of the consultation outcomes to enable more people to access legal aid. They plan to announce these policy outcomes at their CLock 10th-anniversary event and welcome back CLock alumni, many of whom have become solicitors, barristers, or human rights advocates.

The event will be led by the Grand Lecturer Michael Mansfield QC and the first Black President of the Law Society, Stephanie Boyce. All are invited to join the anniversary event to support access to justice and celebrate CLock's achievements.