School of Law
Practical opportunities and the Pro Bono Initiative
The School of Law offers a diverse portfolio of schemes which allows students to gain experience of working within the legal system.
A productive relationship between Portsmouth City Council's Trading Standards Team and the School of Law has resulted in students working with Trading Standards Officers on external events in schools and shopping precincts and with campaigns to help consumers.
Portsmouth Mediation Service
Portsmouth Mediation Service provides a service to resolve disputes between neighbours and other parties in dispute and it has trained some of our students as mediators. Since mediation is a means of resolving disputes without the parties going to court, it is increasingly growing in importance and these skills are highly desired by the legal professions and other industries.
The University of Portsmouth's Innocence Project is a student-run project which deals with alleged miscarriages of justice. Students receive referrals from prisoners who believe they have been wrongly convicted through the United Kingdom Innocence Network. Under supervision from a member of staff and an external lawyer, the students receive the case files and then investigate the claims. If the students find there are grounds for appeal, the lawyer will take over the case and make a reference to the Criminal Cases Review Commission. This project provides students a good understanding of how the criminal justice process works.
"I have learnt a lot since joining the project. I have been on a prison visit, interviewed our client, studied court files and witness statements; there is always something to do and learn."
"The Innocence Project is a lot more interesting than a dissertation as you’re working with real people, improving your communication skills, interview skills and organisation skills."
Employment Law Clinic
The Employment Law Clinic provides a free advice service to the community. Clients come to the clinic with their employment law problems. Student advisers interview the clients, research the relevant law and produce a detailed letter of advice with the assistance of their tutors.
"The Employment Law Clinic has allowed us to experience real life dilemmas and put the law into practice. It has been highly rewarding and an enjoyable opportunity."
Maddie Jones and Abi Sharpe
Students can also gain practical experience by electing to take the Street Law unit. This allows students to give advice to a group of people who share the same type of legal problems or legal needs. Students devise a series of methods to provide the group with the necessary information. This might involve a role-play, presentation or group activity. Portsmouth students have made presentations to elderly people concerned about anti-social behaviour by neighbours, and youth groups on a variety of issues.
British Red Cross
At the British Red Cross, students advise asylum seekers and refugees as they apply for leave to remain in the UK. Initially, students will work alongside experienced case-workers during drop-in advice sessions.
BID South aims to support immigration detainees in making applications for bail. Students work with BID South representatives to provide advice and information over the telephone to empower and aid detainees.
At SureStart, students advise clients on debt and housing issues and help them with their communications with creditors, courts and legal advisers.
Students can, in addition, train as a Special Constable or an Appropriate Adult with the Hampshire Police.
Pro Bono Work
Underpinning these units is the School of Law's commitment to pro bono work. Providing free help and guidance to groups and individuals within the community who may not be able to access or afford legal help is a central part of the School's ethos. As a consequence of this initiative, the School has contacts with a wide variety of organisations for which students may wish to volunteer either as part of a university option or simply as an extra-curricular activity.
Students involved in these activities benefit in many ways. They learn about the law in practice; develop transferable skills; and network with lawyers and other actors in the legal system. By working with the law and within the local community, we see students develop confidence as well as providing themselves with excellent material which will impress employers.
Opportunities exist for students to take a paid placement between their second and third years. This may be in a law firm, working for local authorities or other public bodies' legal departments, or with in-house legal advisors in commercial enterprises. The School of Law is active in seeking out placements which will give students this valuable legal experience.