Access to justice through legal education.
The LLM in Access to Justice (A2J) is a distinct and unique clinical legal education course in Northern Ireland and on the island of Ireland, there being no comparable courses at undergraduate or postgraduate level. The course gives students the opportunity to develop legal advice and advocacy skills by allowing them to represent appellants in Industrial and Social Security Tribunals. Students will also have the opportunity to engage their interest in the provision of legal services more generally as they are required to develop and manage the ‘Ulster University Law Clinic’.
The function of the course is to supplement the existing range of legal service providers by focusing on, and meeting, ‘unmet legal need’ in the fields of employment law and social security law. In doing so, students are tasked to analyze ‘unmet legal need’, the availability and consumption of legal services and reflect on wider issues of access to justice, ‘equality of arms’, and dispute resolution.
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About this course
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The LLM A2J programme is a distinct and unique contribution to legal education in Northern Irelandand on the island of Ireland, there being no comparable programme at undergraduate or postgraduate level. Its function is to supplement the range of legal service providers by focusing on, and meeting, unmet legal need in the fields of employment law and social security law, whilst giving students the opportunity to develop legal advice and advocacy skills and engaging their interest in the provision of legal services more generally.
To this end, students receive training in social security law, employment law, alternative dispute resolution and tribunal representation in preparation for providing advice and advocacy, to members of the public with appeals before Social Security or Employment Tribunals. This advice and representation will be provided through the ‘Ulster Law Clinic’ and/or on placement with advice sector organisations in semesters one, two and three. The programme also involves students in the development and management of the ‘Ulster Law Clinic’.
Students are expected to attend all classes associated with the programme and be punctual and regular in attendance. In semester one, students will undertake taught modules in Social Security Law and Policy, Employment Law, Tribunal Representation and Alternative Dispute Resolution. Student will also begin clinical work placement with the Legal Support Project within the Law Centre (NI) in the area of Social Security and induction to the Ulster Law Clinic. In Semester 2 & 3, Students will be based at the Ulster Law Clinic and/or clinical work placement with the Legal Support Project for the Clinical Legal Practice module where they will provide advice and representation to users of the Law Clinic. Students will also undertake the taught module Housing Law and attend classes in the Dissertation module.
- September 2017
Here is a guide to the subjects studied on this course.
Courses are continually reviewed to take advantage of new teaching approaches and developments in research, industry and the professions. Please be aware that modules may change for your year of entry. The exact modules available and their order may vary depending on course updates, staff availability, timetabling and student demand. Please contact the course team for the most up to date module list.
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Employment Compliance and Development
Whether you are a lawyer, human resources professional, personnel or industrial relations officer, this module will develop a range of skills, which will enable all students to remain fully abreast of the latest legislative and case law developments in employment compliance. It will ensure that all students acquire in-depth knowledge and understanding of how employment compliance issues operates in practice. Students will be provided with assistance enabling them to respond to complex practical, legal and ethical problems. Students will be encouraged to critically analyse the law and important legal issues they face in practice.
Social Security Law and Policy
This module will provide an insight into how the social security system in the UK is structured and how entitlement to different social security benefits is governed. It will enable students to appreciate the complexity of social security provision, and the impact of policy which drives social security reform.
The importance of the employment relationship between employers, employees, unions and
other statutory bodies and agencies is such that a thorough knowledge of both the context and
the substantive law is necessary for those involved in this area in any capacity. The module
attempts to provide the basis for this knowledge and to put students in the position where they
may not only have an understanding of the law both conceptually and substantively, but also be
in a position to use that knowledge in the solution of problems.
Alternative Dispute Resolution
Methods of ADR are increasingly being used within the legal system and advocated as a means of removing cases from overburdened courts. In appropriate cases they can provide an alternative to legal adjudication and can be used as a means of achieving satisfactory solutions to disputes. The purpose of this module is to introduce students to the processes of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) and its relationship to law. The course will cover processes such as arbitration, mediation and conciliation and will provide students with a foundational knowledge of ADR which can then be developed in their professional practice. The module will comprise both theoretical and skills based elements. Students will consider the rationale and ethics of ADR before being introduced to some of the practical skills used in these processes. The study and practice of ADR will be undertaken in the context of a range of legal subject areas, including commercial law, family law and employment law.
This module aims through a combination of lectures and practical exercises to enable trainees to further develop their own professional practice in relation to employment and social security matters. The module aims to develop a student's ability to apply and further develop the knowledge and practical skills gained in prior and concurrent modules. The module will encourage discussion of rationales and consequences of each available course of action in any given scenario, and students will be encouraged to critique solutions to any issues identified as arising from their choice(s). It is anticipated that students will examine the impact of the rules and procedures involved and their tactical application in practice with a view to developing their own individual work practice.
Clinical Legal Practice
Clinical Legal Practice forms the centre-piece module of the LLM Access to Justice programme, being the module during which students develop their clinical legal practical skills. Student clinicians will be required to provide specialist information, advice and advocacy for social security claimants and individuals seeking assistance with employment law disputes, including representation at tribunal where appropriate. The clinical legal experience will be predominantly placement based at the outset, and student clinicians will also work towards establishing, developing and managing an Ulster Law Clinic to provide an in-house, public facing clinic to provide free specialist assistance for members of the public with social security and employment law disputes.
This module allows students to apply the research skills acquired and explore the issues broached in the taught modules, by conducting an effective critical investigation of an area of concern or interest in human rights law and to write a report on that investigation.
We recognise a range of qualifications for admission to our courses. In addition to the specific entry conditions for this course you must also meet the University’s General Entrance Requirements.
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You must satisfy the General Entry Requirements for admission to a first degree programme, and hold a GCSE pass in English at grade C or above (or equivalent). The Faculty of Social Sciences will accept Essential Skills Level 2 Communication as equivalent to GCSE English Language.
(a) have gained (i) a second class honours degree or better in law or law related discipline from a university of the United Kingdom or the Republic of Ireland, from the Council for National Academic Awards, the National Council for Educational Awards, the Higher Education and Training Awards Council, or from an institution of another country which has been recognised as being of an equivalent standard; or (ii) an equivalent standard (normally 50%) in a Graduate Diploma, Graduate Certificate, Postgraduate Certificate or Postgraduate Diploma in law or an approved alternative qualification; or (iii) a degree in a relevant discipline with appropriate work/professional experience in the field of access to justice; or (iv) a comparable professional qualification; and
(b) provide evidence of competence in written and spoken English (GCSE grade C or equivalent); or, as an alternative to (a) (i) or (a) (ii) and/or (b):
(c) In exceptional circumstances, where an individual has substantial and significant experiential learning, a portfolio of written evidence demonstrating the meeting of graduate qualities (including subject-specific outcomes, as determined by the Course Committee) may be considered as an alternative entrance route. Evidence used to demonstrate graduate qualities may not be used for exemption against modules within the programme.
(d) In addition, all applicants will be required to submit a personal statement detailing their interest and motivation in undertaking the programme, and they will also be required to attend an interview to evaluate applicants’ suitability for the programme.
English Language Requirements
English language requirements for international applicants
The minimum requirement for this course is Academic IELTS 6.0 with no band score less than 5.5. Trinity ISE: Pass at level III also meets this requirement for Tier 4 visa purposes.
Ulster recognises a number of other English language tests and comparable IELTS equivalent scores.
Teaching and learning assessment
Professional and practical skills will comprise a significant element of the course, and will be developed through a combination of traditional and innovative teaching and learning methods. The focus of these blended teaching and learning methods will be on encouraging students to be flexible and creative in their approaches to legal problem solving: in practice, on paper and in simulated experiences. The Teaching and learning methods designed to ensure that students will acquire key knowledge and technical understanding of complex information will include traditional lectures and seminars, directed and facilitated by staff members, and designed to encourage high levels of student engagement. These traditional methods of teaching and learning include staff-led lectures; student and tutor-led seminars; group work and student presentations; and problem based scenarios. Within the induction programme students will begin their skills based learning, with an introduction to skills development in interviewing, drafting, negotiation and advocacy. These skills will be further developed through a range of techniques and synergistic emphasis on the development of subject specific and technical knowledge alongside an appreciation and awareness of law in practice. These will include, inter alia, supervision sessions; lectures/workshops by specialist, invited speakers; supervised clinic development/management meetings; mock case discussion and tribunals; and the use of real-life case studies and exemplars.
The assessments methods employed on the LLM are designed to test knowledge, understanding and the professional and practical skills of students. These include, inter alia, written and oral based coursework and case studies of relevant legal issues and client based problems through the use of reflective learning journals; case studies on simulated and real client cases; and advocacy, interviewing and negotiation exercises. Such methods allow for an experimental and positive student learning experience through the use of continuous learning and feedback practices which facilitate students’ development as independent learners and allows them to assess, regulate and evaluate their performance and learning into professional practice.
Exemptions and transferability
For a variety of reasons, not least the issue of insurance, no exemptions are granted for prior study, including from employment law and social security law.
Careers & opportunities
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You will develop skills highly relevant to legal practice, and to policy, research and advocacy roles in the voluntary, public and private sectors in the UK, Ireland and beyond. Successful completion may also open up a range of further study and research options.
The LLM A2J allows you to develop the analytical skills prized by employers in a wide range of career pathways within the United Kingdom, Ireland and internationally. Students obtain experience in all aspects of legal practice, from client-handling and case-related research, to advocacy and representation, as well as developing and managing a working Law Clinic. The degree is relevant to legal practice and policy, and to research and advocacy roles in the voluntary, public and private sectors. Successful completion also opens up a range of further study and research options.
We are proud to state that all our graduates to date have have transitioned into employment, practice or further academic study. The connections created by the referral network have generated opportunities for our graduates in the form of trainee solicitor positions with one of the members of our referral network, Sullivans Law, for example. Graduates have also been employed as research interns in the Law Society of Northern Ireland for the last two years. Other students have taken up funded PhDs examining issues and concepts arising from their LLM studies, and continued working across the legal advice field.
Work placement / study abroad
Student clinicans will have placement as volunteers with our placement partner at the pro-bono Legal Support Project at Law Centre (NI). Students will undertake training and will providing specialist legal advice and representation on social security cases.
Students can also engage in placement through collaboration with the Legal Support Officer at Citizens Advice Regional Office. Students would focus on providing support in Social Security Commissioner’s cases.
Students will undertake employment law cases through the Ulster Law Clinic.
The Clinic staff have recieved recognition through a variety of awards. The Course Team received the Distinguished Team Teaching Award in December 2014 from Ulster University, as well as Learning and Teaching Awards 2014 Course/School Team of the Year in the UUSU awards. Dr Eugene McNamee was the recipient of the US-UK Fulbright Public Sector Award 2014 - Scholar at Fordham Law School, NYC, 2015. Dr Esther McGuinness was runner up in the highly prestigious Law Teacher of the Year Award OUP.
Clinic staff continue to engage in leading research and justice innovations related to practical implications of, and solutions to, access to justice problems. The Clinic was awarded funding by the Legal Education Foundation to analyse the role of university law clinics in the UK in delivering access to justice. Dr Gráinne McKeever received funding from the British Academy/Leverhulme to understand how court litigants participate in court hearings. The Nuffield Foundation has awarded Dr Gráinne McKeever and Dr John McCord, in partnership with the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, to conduct a human rights analysis of the impact of litigants in person (LIPs) on the Northern Ireland court system. Ciaran White has engaged in research to review the access to justice barriers arising for deaf clients attending consultations with private solicitors in Northern Ireland.
Fees and funding
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Fees (total cost)
Important notice - fees information
Please note fees displayed are for 2017/18 Academic Entry. Fees are correct at the time of publishing. Additional mandatory costs are highlighted where they are known in advance. There are other costs associated with university study.
View Ulster University’s 2017 fees policy
Scholarships, awards and prizes
The LLM A2J has received considerable national and international recognition since the Clinic began in January 2013. The Ulster Law Clinic won the prestigious 2014 Law Works and Attorney General Award for best new pro bono activity in the UK, recognising the impact, innovation and sustainability of the Ulster Law Clinic, the partnership work with local and legal communities, and the provision of pro bono legal support that is unavailable elsewhere. The programme also won the Fulbright Public Sector Award 2014 and a nomination by the Hague Institute for the Internationalisation of Law for its global Innovating Justice Award 2014 for ‘a novel idea that can deliver concrete justice results’. The Clinic was shortlisted for the 2016 LawWorks and Attorney General Student Award for Best Contribution by a Law School in the UK, recognising the quality and complexity of the Clinic's work and enagement with the legal community. The course recently won the 2016 gradireland/Higher Education Awards for Postgraduate Course of the Year Award in Law.
The unique work of the Ulster Law Clinic is further endorsed by the continued support of our scholarship sponsors: the Department of Justice, which has sponsored an Access to Justice Scholarship since 2013, and Allen & Overy, which has sponsored Justice Scholarships and maintenance awards from 2015/16 to 2017/18. The scholarships have made a significant difference to the recipients, developing student's research and clinical capacity and ultimately to the ability of the Clinic to deliver access to justice.
Additional mandatory costs
Tuition fees and costs associated with accommodation, travel (including car parking charges), and normal living are a part of university life.
Where a course has additional mandatory expenses we make every effort to highlight them. These may include residential visits, field trips, materials (e.g. art, design, engineering) inoculations, security checks, computer equipment, uniforms, professional memberships etc.
We aim to provide students with the learning materials needed to support their studies. Our libraries are a valuable resource with an extensive collection of books and journals as well as first-class facilities and IT equipment. Computer suites and free wifi is also available on each of the campuses.
There will be some additional costs to being a student which cannot be itemised and these will be different for each student. You may choose to purchase your own textbooks and course materials or prefer your own computer and software. Printing and binding may also be required. There are additional fees for graduation ceremonies, examination resits and library fines. Additional costs vary from course to course.
Students choosing a period of paid work placement or study abroad as part of their course should be aware that there may be additional travel and living costs as well as tuition fees.
Please contact the course team for more information.
Ulster Law Clinic Client feedback has been consistently excellent, with an emphasis on the professionalism of the Clinic’s service:
“The Law Clinic gave me great impartial advice and guidance for my tribunal, from the initial meeting to taking me through each step of the procedure. Without the help and assistance of Freddy, Michael and Esther at the Law Clinic, I wouldn’t have been able to fully prepare to put my case forward at tribunal. I would just like to thank you again for all the effort you put in to my case and going the extra mile to make sure I was fully prepared (Ulster University Law Clinic Client)
“You have always kept in touch with me and offered really detailed advice which I really appreciate. I had literally no idea of how things like this worked before and you have explained everything to me in a really straightforward way. I would definitely recommend people to contact the Law Clinic if they had legal disputes.” (Ulster University Law Clinic Client)
LLM A2J students have also continued to provide free legal advice and representation on placement with the pro-bono Legal Support Project at Law Centre (NI) and at Citizens Advice Regional Office, with hugely positive feedback on student work:
“LLM Clinical Legal Education student volunteers have made a very valuable contribution to the work of the LSP. It is clear from our client feedback that the advice and representation they provide makes a real difference and is greatly appreciated.” (Sinead Mulhern, Project LeaderLegal Support Project)
“This support has proved invaluable to Citizens Advice as it has enabled more clients to access justice … I have been so impressed with the calibre of students, their legal knowledge and expertise in the social security system … The feedback from our advisers and clients has been overwhelmingly positive.” (Laura Banks, Citizens Advice Regional Office, Legal Support Officer)