Since 2006 Nottingham Law School Legal Advice Centre has advised or represented over 900 clients. The Legal Advice Centre works extensively with the local community, including businesses and entrepreneurs.
The centre has helped over 1200 students participate in some form of pro bono work, providing students with experience working within a fully regulated practice, while simultaneously developing and delivering innovative ways to ensure clients access justice. The centre started working on cases for SMEs some years ago: solicitor supervisors with experience in intellectual property, commercial real estate, and employment supervised students providing advice to small businesses. With support from the local legal community, the centre also handled small pieces of work for start-ups, providing terms of business and undertaking other bespoke work.
2014 saw the centre expand further into commercial work, particularly Intellectual Property work. It became one of only nine to receive an award of £69,000 from the Intellectual Property Office’s (IPO) Fast Forward competition. Funds went towards workshops for supporting students and businesses in the creative industries to enable them to better protect, manage and exploit ideas and intellectual property. Companies and graduates with new business ideas were offered pro bono clinics with Nottingham Trent University (NTU) Law students. Additionally, funds supported the publication of a book, The Nottingham Intellectual Property Guide for Creatives, which further supported the Nottingham creative industry. The Legal Advice Centre received funding from the IPO awards for a second time in 2015, using the £26,000 worth of funding to further support students, publishing a second book about showing work at degree shows, and carrying out IP health checks with students.
In January 2017, the Legal Advice Centre launched a Business and Enterprise Law Service, dedicated to Nottingham’s small businesses, entrepreneurs and charities. The service will assist these organisations in better understanding their legal rights and obligations, advising on a range of issues to small businesses. Though charitable, the centre holds an Alternative Business Structure licence from the Solicitors Regulation Authority, so can therefore charge for a small proportion of its services. The centre is working with NTU’s Enabling Innovation programme.
This programme is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund and run in collaboration with the Universities of Nottingham and Derby to support Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire SMEs. Along with funding from Santander UK plc, over the next three years the centre will receive a total of just under £160,000 to allow it to provide legal support and services locally. The centre has also benefited from significant donor funding to develop this service. The Legal Advice Centre is proud to have worked with the Nottingham community, receiving positive feedback on its impact on individuals and organisations, such as the following: “I was completely at a loss as to what to do with the situation but I was given a range of options that has made me feel so empowered that I now know I can deal with the situation.”
It is testament to the centre’s dedication that it became the first winner of the Access to Justice Foundation Award for promotion of Access to Justice by a University Law School in April 2016. In future, the Legal Advice Centre intends to further develop its services to the community. It aims to provide new ways of delivering access to justice, including working with groups like SMEs who perhaps wouldn’t always seek legal advice. They also intend to explore and evaluate new methods of securing access to justice with legal practices and maintain their existing relationships.