The Law Clinic offers many benefits to both students and clients. Here our students explain how Ulster University Law Clinic helped them advance their careers.
Maria Therese McCann, LLB, LPC, 2016-17
"I chose the LLM in Clinical Legal Education as I wanted to change the course of my career and to get more interaction with clients and practical legal work after a period of absence. In addition, I wanted to enhance my CV with regard to academic and research skills and considered that the chance to submit a dissertation would open more doors for me at the end of the course.
I have found that the course has fulfilled my expectations; I have had experience of research, both in the academic field and also for clients. I recently submitted a research report for an external client and this led to a successful appeal. The case was stimulating intellectually and I also had the chance to make a positive impact on the life of the client which was exactly what I was hoping.
The staff have been supportive and ready to help the students with queries. I have always felt that there is someone I could approach.
Overall, I have found the course to be useful in a practical sense and also intellectually satisfying. Speaking from my own experience, the practical experience and academic rigour is better than my LPC. I would say that the course would allow a new graduate to make an informed choice about whether to pursue a legal career and that this could save anguish later on. In the case that a student decided not to pursue legal practice, there is plenty of experience gained which would allow a graduate to pursue further study or a different career."
Frederick Reilly LLB LLM, Allen & Overy Justice Scholarship 2015-16
“The Allen and Overy scholarship enabled me to obtain the broadest possible experience on the LLM by immersing myself, personally and professionally, in the clinical case experience … I feel that I have made many technical improvements in my capacity as a legal professional with drafting, consulting with clients and formal negotiating and advocacy skills. Indeed, I have also gained a deep and rich appreciation of the overall adaptable craft that makes a competent lawyer. This experiential learning was the fulcrum upon which the course operated.
I dedicated a very large amount of time to improving access to justice for vulnerable individuals. I formally advocated on behalf of clients at five social security hearings, covering different disability benefits. I also advocated in employment law cases at various Case Management Discussions and represented a Clinic client at a full employment law hearing. In total, I formally advocated in front of four Employment Judges in employment cases.
My experience on the LLM Clinical Legal Education meant bridging the gap in access to justice for individuals with no recourse to traditional legal avenues. The feedback clients provided was very humbling. To receive these kind words directly from the clients I was tasked with helping was a great privilege. This degree of appreciation from clients who had unmet legal need has undoubtedly been my most cherished accomplishment.”
Niall Byrne LLB LLM, Allen & Overy Justice Scholarship 2015-16
“I have gained significant legal knowledge through the LLM Clinical Legal Education, and the practical element has been invaluable in making me a better social welfare law practitioner.
I had the opportunity to complete a wide variety of work as an Allen & Overy scholarship student, all of which served to improve my skills and help me to work towards improving access to justice for under-represented individuals. I found the casework completed through the Clinic and Law Centre placements to be intense learning experiences. I dealt with various issues ranging from illegal employment to migrants’ entitlements to social security.
Without the help of the Ulster University Law Clinic many of our clients would otherwise have either dropped their cases or self-litigated, experiencing the stress and profound difficulties of self-representing before a Tribunal. The clinic has given hundreds of hours of free legal advice to under-represented individuals who could not afford to pay for legal advice, and has contributed to the success of multiple employment and social security cases for claimants. Being a part of this work has been an invaluable experience for students such as myself, who wish to continue to work towards increasing access to justice.”
Joan Davidson LLB LLM, Access to Justice Scholarship 2014-2015
“The LLM, and the Access to Justice Scholarship provided by the Department of Justice, has had an instrumental effect on my progression in the legal world, leading directly to me securing a training contract. It has been increasingly difficult for law graduates to obtain training contracts … Even excellent academic records and postgraduate qualifications will often not be enough to distinguish graduates; … there is a necessity for practice-focused experience …
[The LLM] offers the unique opportunity for students to participate in stages of legal representation that would be closed off to them until some way through their legal training ... Only once I had begun my Training Contract did I see how much of a head start the LLM had given me in terms of client interaction, presenting documents to courts or tribunals, and the day to day reality of case management. In particular the opportunity to represent a client at a Case Management Discussion before the president of the Employment Tribunal is indicative of not only the unique opportunity the LLM affords students but also the vital service it offers to the public."
Conor McCormick LLB LLM, Access to Justice Scholarship 2013-14
"I initially applied to study the LLM in Clinical Legal Education because I was keen to continue studying and simultaneously build my legal experience, for simple employability reasons. It was clear that the LLM in Clinical Legal Education was ahead of the game because it incorporated opportunities to practice law in a clinical setting under expert supervision. The LLM’s academic angle made doctoral research an attainable option too. Furthermore, the programme’s links with influential institutions made it a natural choice for me over LLM courses at other UK universities.
My legal background made me ambitious to follow a career where social justice would underpin my work. Although I obtained work in a corporate firm to bridge
the career gap between my LL.B and the capricious ‘next step’, I found the prospect of advising and representing underprivileged individuals a more satisfying prospect. That is a difficult choice for law graduates to make, as the material benefits of being friends with Goliath often obscure the meaningful benefits of being a friend for David.
Unfortunately, my legal ambition was restricted by pecuniary circumstance. With all the will in the world, I could not have taken part in this fascinating and fulfilling programme without awarded the Access to Justice scholarship. I am sincerely grateful for the direction this award has given my career and encourage all prospective students to submit an application, or risk regretting it."
Fiona Quinn LLB LLM 2012-2013
"After completing my LLB, I decided I wanted to continue with legal studies. There were quite a few options for a Masters in law, however, the LLM Clinical Legal Education was the most intriguing as it provided something which none of the others did – real life experience. This LLM wasn’t purely about textbooks and assignments (although that is an element of it) – it was about developing and operating a successful law clinic which dealt with real legal problems with real clients. It was also the only Masters that enabled me to continue with an area of law I was keen to specialise in- Employment Law.
Essentially the clinic expands students’ views of advocacy and provides us with the basic tools needed for competency in litigation. It was this experience that set it apart from every other Masters degree in Northern Ireland. I learnt the most through my dealings with clients and I doubt if any degree could beat the feeling that I got when my clients’ appeals were successful.
I would highly recommend the LLM for anyone who wishes to pursue a legal career. The LLM provided me with vital experience and skills to succeed not only in law, but in relationships and encounters with members of society as I go through life. Also, not many LLM degrees can boast a 100% employment rate within four months of its completion!"
Lynsey Elliott LLB LLM 2012-2013
"What attracted me to the LLM Clinical Legal Education was the practical element and the opportunity to establish and manage a free legal advice clinic, the Ulster University Law Clinic.
My experiences on the LLM CLE were unlike any other study I have undertaken. Students were on their feet presenting cases and being recorded from the very beginning in our Tribunal Representation module and the support from colleagues and tutors was fantastic.
The programme offers an unrivalled opportunity to study substantive law modules (social security, employment law and public interest litigation), alongside skills modules (tribunal representation, alternative dispute resolution and clinical legal practice). This blended learning approach gives students an excellent grounding in not only the substantive law, but also the interpretation, application and practice of law. Students also develop key skills in legal research, drafting, advice and client care, all skills relevant for professional life.
Unique to this course is the opportunity to engage with other stakeholders in the voluntary and legal sectors. Students undertake placements in Law Centre (NI), Citizens Advice and on site in the Ulster University Law Clinic. Staff on the programme are incredibly active in making contacts with the legal sector for the benefit of students. One such contact led to the firm Pinsent Masons arranging mock case management discussions in employment law, giving students a real feel for casework.
I particularly enjoyed the collaborative nature of the programme. Students and staff work closely together and students are given the responsibility to manage their own casework. My experience with other students was one of support, friendship and collaboration.
I would whole heartedly recommend the LLM to any law student thinking of practicing law or anyone with an interest in social justice and law. The programme has given me the contacts, confidence and skills to pursue a legal career and I am very proud of the fact that I am amongst the first graduates of the LLM Clinical Legal Education."