Keele Divorce Clinic

Original video:

What our students do at the divorce clinic.

Hello, I'm Catherine Edwards, a senior practitioner in law at Keele University, and I'm one of two solicitors who supervise the Legal Advice Clinic, specifically the Divorce Clinic.

We intentionally chose a model for our clinic that differs from the traditional university legal advice clinic. As a solicitor, I wanted our students to gain a deep understanding of what it's really like to interact with a client and to provide ongoing support. Many employers emphasize the importance of not just conducting initial interviews but also effectively managing client relationships, especially when things go wrong, get delayed, or require urgent advice. Therefore, our model focuses on ongoing case management.

In our clinic, students are responsible for various aspects. They initially meet with new clients, sometimes on a drop-in basis without prior knowledge of the client's situation, while other times, they prepare in advance with research. They utilize our online case management system, engage with clients to put them at ease, and most importantly, offer legal advice. This approach benefits both the community and our students, as it significantly enhances their client handling skills. They learn how to explain complex legal concepts in a way that is accessible to clients.

For the Divorce Clinic, students advise clients on divorce eligibility and proceed to draft divorce petitions or court documents in response to one. They also communicate with clients to explain the contents of the petition, where to sign, eligibility for court fee remission, the process, and what to expect next. They gain experience in conducting these interviews, both in-person and online, which is increasingly common nowadays. Importantly, they provide continuous support to the client throughout the entire process, building a strong client-student relationship.

This clinic offers a rewarding experience for both our students and clients. It provides a safe learning environment where students can develop their skills, knowing that I'm available to assist if needed. I review everything they draft to ensure legal accuracy and take overall responsibility for the clinic. However, students have the chance to demonstrate their abilities in client interviews, legal advice, legal drafting, and legal writing. Furthermore, they acquire enhanced communication skills that many legal professionals only develop after entering legal practice.

In a world where gaining legal work experience can be challenging, our clinic offers a unique opportunity for students to gain hands-on experience in client work. This experience may even count as qualifying work experience under the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE).