Nottingham Law School (NLS) has created the first “teaching law firm” for students after being granted an alternative business structure (ABS) licence by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.
The licence will give students the opportunity to work in NLS’s Legal Advice Centre as a fully regulated organisation as part of their studies, replicating the professional environment and working practices of an external law firm.
In March, the University of Law became the first educational institution awarded an ABS licence, but this supports its trainee litigation programme for those training at firms or businesses which cannot offer the required dispute resolution experience.
NLS’s centre traditionally handles housing, property and environmental cases, and welfare and employment issues, but now aims to expand.
As we reported earlier this year, it is looking to set up an entrepreneurial and intellectual property law service, which will offer start-ups and social enterprises paid-for legal advice.
Jenny Holloway, associate dean of NLS, said: “Ultimately the aim of this development is to enrich our student and community offering. The teaching law firm will provide outstanding educational opportunities for our students. As a university, community engagement is very important to us and operating as an ABS allows us to expand our services for the public good. The students will be fully-supervised by qualified solicitors and will offer a quality legal advice service.”
Since the centre moved to new premises in June 2014, more than 200 students have spent 10,000 hours advising some 180 clients. The centre has also successfully represented and recovered around £40,000 for clients with tribunal cases.
Centre director Nick Johnson, director of the Nottingham Law School Legal Advice Centre, said: “The employment market is highly competitive and, along with academic excellence, graduates need to show that they’ve gained as much experience as possible during their studies.
“Operating as an ABS will give students at all levels the chance to experience a wide range of legal professional practice. The work will not only cover various areas of law, but will also teach students about issues relating to access to justice. We’re preparing them to excel in their chosen profession.”