Volunteering at UEL’s Legal Advice Centre makes a difference
Three recently graduated law students from have put themselves on the fast-track to qualification as solicitors in a record 30 months – and their tuition fees paid – thanks to their volunteering while at the University of East London.
As well as pursuing their law studies, Ioana Trimbitas, Amirah Qadir and Ewa Dunn, from the Royal Docks School of Business and Law, volunteered at the University’s Legal Advice Centre.
The advice centre stepped up its operations in the spring to deal with issues surrounding lockdown and Covid-19, including welfare, family law and tenancies.
On the back of their impressive contributions, Ioana, Amirah and Ewa caught the eye of University House Legal Advice Centre – one of the oldest advice agencies in London – and now they have been awarded fully funded solicitor apprenticeships.
Ewa said, “It is a fantastic option to complete the Level 7 course – the equivalent to a Master’s Degree – in legal practice whilst gaining work experience.
“During my LLB course, I was working part-time in an unrelated role and it was hard to manage work and study at the same time. With the apprenticeship, the work and studying ratio is way better.
“I am currently working in the housing department, assisting solicitors with a range of housing cases. My typical daily tasks include initial interviews with clients, assisting solicitors during meetings with clients and preparing attendance notes, updating files on the case management system, drafting letters/emails, filling in forms.
“It is the beginning of an interesting and challenging career but for now, I am focussing on completing the apprenticeship. In the long term, I would like to practice in human rights, criminal, or immigration law. I would love also to gain qualification as a solicitor advocate and police station representative. But this is still at least two years from now.”
Ewa urged current law students to engage with the Legal Advice Centre. She said, “It is fun, good experience, helps you develop the skills you will use in practice, opens many doors, and enables you to meet a lot of amazing people. I will definitely recommend volunteering to every student who considers a career in law.”
And as for wider study advice, she said, “The key to success is to develop good habits. It is essential to plan and do things well in advance. A lot of legal employers recruit one or even two years before the commencement of the job.”
Ewa also undertook work experience as part of her degree, including an eight-month internship with the immigration department of Caveat Solicitors as well as an internship with Duncan Lewis, and a mini-pupillage with Red Lion Chambers.
She said, “It is extremely important to gain a variety of work experience during the degree, to get an idea of what is like to work in the legal sector and also of what kind of work would you like to do. Moreover, good grades are not enough to get the job you want. The majority of employers ask for relevant experience.”
Senior lecturer and director of the Legal Advice Centre Eleanor Scarlett, said, “Ioana, Amirah and Ewa truly took advantage of the opportunities we present to our law students and made a huge and welcome impact at the Legal Advice Centre at a significant time.
“I was delighted to be able to recommend them for the apprenticeship programme and look forward to watching how their careers develop.”
Professor Mohammad Ali, dean of the Royal Docks School of Business and Law, said, “As part of our Vision 2028 transformation strategy, we actively encourage our students to pursue a career that makes a positive impact on their local community.
“Ioana, Amirah and Ewa started early, volunteering at the advice centre, and we’re pleased and proud that their contribution has set them on their way to a fast-track qualification as solicitor.
Pictured, Legal Advice Centre volunteers and organisers
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