My name is Charlotte Green, I have just completed my three-year Law LLB at Warwick, and I am going to start my LPC LLM remotely with the University of Law in September 2021. Thank you to Warwick Law School for a fantastic three years, as well as providing me with this space to share my experience with the Central England Law Centre (Central England Law Centre (centralenglandlc.org.uk)) and Warwick Law in the Community (Warwick Law in the Community).
Entering my final year, I was still unsure as to what I would be doing after I graduated. I had been to various career events, considering careers both in law and unrelated to law, including teaching and various charities, but I was still no closer to finding a career that was right for me. I was very aware that time was nearly up, and I needed to consider my options post-graduation. Although I have thoroughly enjoyed my three years of studying law, I struggled to picture myself pursuing a career in the areas that I had studied in my first two years. Sure, there were jobs that I could have done, but nothing caught my attention or sparked the meaning that I craved – I knew I wanted to make some sort of difference, and that was it.
Before the COVID-19 crisis, I had volunteered at a safehouse for female survivors of modern slavery and human trafficking. During this experience, I accompanied guests to solicitor meetings at the local law centre, as well as to Home Office interviews. This was when I became aware of the idea of a career in an area of law funded by legal aid – could this be the area I have been searching for, combining work to make a difference by improving access to justice and my passion for the law? Over the summer, I had written the summer news for Young Legal Aid Lawyers (home | Young Legal Aid Lawyers) and had also read The Secret Barrister’s first book (I would highly recommend) – slowly, a career in legal aid was becoming a more compelling career choice. So when the opportunity (News, Events and Opportunities (warwick.ac.uk)) to volunteer for the Central England Law Centre came to my attention, I applied straight away.
The entire application process was online. There was an application form and later an interview (during which my wifi connection was so shocking that I thought they can’t have heard anything I had said). A few days later, I was sent an email to confirm that I had been offered a place at the Central England Law Centre Immigration and Asylum Clinic.
To start, we had a few training sessions on Friday afternoons, where we were introduced to the concept of Exceptional Case Funding (ECF), which is a scheme that exists because of the cuts to legal aid following LASPO 2012. As scope for legal aid has been slashed dramatically in many cases, ECF is granted to cover the legal costs of cases that would usually be outside the scope of legal aid but where they engage rights under the ECHR (European Convention on Human Rights) or CFEU (Charter of the Fundamental Rights of the European Union). In the cases that I encountered, the main right engaged being respect for private and family life. Then we were given an overview of the background underpinning immigration and asylum law, and how it operates. This was extremely interesting to me, as I had not touched on any immigration or asylum law during my degree. Compared to some of the core law modules I studied, the way this area of law interacts with people’s family lives fascinates me.
After this training, we were paired with other students and given a new case every 1-2 weeks. Some cases involved sitting in on calls with clients as the Law Centre staff obtained their history and details to prepare for the applications. It was insightful to listen to, and communicate with, the people who we were trying to assist, albeit remotely. From there, we were required to fill in two legal application forms per case and draft a document of grounds to apply for ECF. These grounds included the immigration history of the client, their family life, applying the relevant law and explaining why this client deserved ECF to present their case. It was incredibly valuable to see the process from start to finish, from communicating with the client to crafting this information into a strong argument for their ECF. As this was all conducted remotely, it allowed me to fulfil my commitments to the Law Clinic as well as other projects I was involved with – I would not have been able to dedicate this much time if I had been travelling to Coventry from Leamington every week!
This experience with Warwick LinC has given me valuable insight into the work and ethos of law centres. This time a year ago, I was completely unsure of the path I would be taking after graduation. Now, with these 9 months of experience behind me, I am confident in my decision to pursue a career as a solicitor, and I will be starting my LPC LLM in September. I am determined to qualify, even if this might not be immediately, and practice in an area of legal aid – my experience at the Law Clinic has confirmed that these are the clients that I wish to work for. Whilst I am not necessarily committed to qualifying in immigration law, I have really enjoyed and appreciated this experience, and seeing first-hand the ability of immigration law to change the course of someone’s life. I will definitely seek to further my knowledge and experience in this area of the law.
I am incredibly grateful to the Central England Law Centre and Warwick LinC for giving me this opportunity, and for the direction that I have found from this experience.
Warwick Law Graduate