Queen Mary University of London Legal Advice Centre (United Kingdom)
The Queen Mary Legal Advance Centre (QMLAC) is the first-place prize winner of the 2022 MacJannet Prize for Global Citizenship. QMLAC is a free community law centre based in the Queen Mary University of London’s Law Department. It brings together undergraduate law students, QMLAC staff and volunteer qualified lawyers to provide free legal advice services, and public legal education initiatives to the local community. It embodies the University’s own history, one with its roots as the People’s Palace – designed to improve the lives of poor communities in London’s East End, through cultural and educational opportunities. The university continues this educational mission today, using public engagement and service in its daily work. This work has been recognized with the award of a Platinum Engage Watermark from the National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement.
The location of the QMLAC is a vibrant and multi-cultural area, but one which has significant poverty and need (East London is regularly the lowest scoring area in the Trust for London’s, ‘Poverty Profile’). The Centre was founded by the Law School in 2006 to meet a need for the community to have access to free legal advice. It was the first law clinic of its kind at a London university.
The QMLAC provides free client-centred 1-2-1 legal advice (and sometimes representation) to the public as well as community-based public legal education projects. Qualified volunteer lawyers supervise all work and legal advice delivered by law students. Student opportunities are both curricular and extra-curricular.
The clinical legal education aspect of the centre’s work is providing students with ‘real life’ experience of assisting people who are in need of access to justice, and ensuring they understand and develop a lifelong commitment to the value and importance of pro bono work, for them personally, as well as the wider community. It is a symbiotic relationship where students and clients benefit from engaging with the other.
The QMLAC team has 8 members of staff (funded by the University), in addition to the students and lawyer volunteers. The QMLAC has a volunteer External Advisory Board made up from volunteers in the legal sector, and an internal QMLAC Management Committee comprised of academics within the Department. This ensures proper and appropriate governance and accountability.
The Centre is founded on the principles of excellence, integrity, and ethics. All student opportunities have concurrent reflection classes. QMLAC teaches the ethics of lawyering and instills in students the importance of the special two-way process that they are learning and developing through the opportunity the clients give them to provide legal advice.
“It is such an honour to receive the prestigious MacJannet Prize from the Talloires Network. We want to acknowledge all the volunteer lawyers, and students who donate their time to the work of the Queen Mary Legal Advice Centre; and all the clients who work with us through some of the most vulnerable times of their lives. Queen Mary University of London has built a proud culture which champions civic engagement. Without the continued support of the University and Law School, the mission and work of the Queen Mary Legal Advice Centre would not be possible. We will continue to strive towards enabling access to justice for all educating our future lawyers in the importance of pro bono and community service.”
– Frances Ridout, Director of the Queen Mary Legal Advice Centre