The Essex Law Clinic was founded by Professor Karen Hulme in partnership with the University of Essex Students’ Union Advice Centre. It was formally launched by its Patron, Shami (now Baroness) Chakrabarti, who at the time was the Director of Liberty, at the University’s Colchester Campus on 10 October 2008.
Its objectives are to enhance access to justice while providing students with experience in putting their legal knowledge into practice, learning legal skills and developing ethical awareness. In 2022, this remains a fundamental objective of the Essex Law Clinic.
After being located in the Students’ Union for it first eight years, the Clinic moved into bespoke new premises within the Law School, which were opened by Sir Keir Starmer.
Initially, students engaged in the Clinic on a voluntary basis by interviewing real clients in the presence of a pro bono solicitor and providing a letter of initial advice, after feedback and legal accuracy checks were conducted by Law School staff. In 2014, Richard Owen joined the Clinic as its new Director and in 2016, Lee Hansen was appointed as Deputy Director.
Richard introduced two clinical modules, which allowed second and final-year law students to gain academic credit for their clinical work. However, first-year law students could still be involved on a voluntary basis, working as clinic receptionists and taking notes during interviews. Richard also introduced an ‘innocence’ module which gave students credit for working on an alleged miscarriage of justice in collaboration with the external organisations. In addition. from time to time, the Clinic engaged in a range of other activities, such as advising prisoners, law reform work, submitting evidence to the House of Commons and conducting research for NGOs looking at environmental matters.
In 2017 Professor Donald Nicolson OBE became the new Clinic Director. Under his direction, the Clinic has returned to being a primarily voluntary organisation (though the two clinic modules remain). Students can now participate for their entire stay at the University, as well as play a leading role in Clinic management and direction.
The Clinic has also expanded its services to the community by travelling to various localities in Essex and moving beyond initial written advice, by providing on-the-spot advice and some basic forms of assistance to clients such as form-filling and letter-writing, while also setting up a wide range of public legal education, law reform and legal research projects.
The Essex Law Clinic team has increased its staff, who specialise in areas including family and child law, housing law, and immigration law. The Clinic has begun to regularly work with other Law School staff, who deliver projects and provide supervision.
The Clinic is currently run by a management team, where students are able to share management responsibilites. Other students also help with various clinic activities, such as organising training, external speakers and social events. All students are encouraged to contribute to Clinic direction through regular student forums which feed into the work of the Management Committee.
Explore the Essex Law Clinic