CEPLER Pro Bono

CEPLER's Pro Bono Group enables students to volunteer in a range of activities that benefit some of the most vulnerable people in the local community, whilst developing their legal practice and employability skills. 

The Pro Bono Group runs a number of extra-curricular pro bono projects every year, each designed to address a specific area of legal need. The projects range from having an international focus to those with a national reach to others which directly benefit our local community.  

All of our projects are delivered in partnership with other organisations such as law firms, barristers’ chambers, charities and other third sector organisations. The Group’s activity can broadly be divided into the four categories of pro bono work shown below, where we have detailed some examples of the projects we run: 

Legal advice and assistance

FLAG

Birmingham Free Legal Advice Group logoThe Birmingham Free Legal Advice Group (FLAG), is a clinic run by the University out of The Exchange, in Birmingham city centre.  

FLAG offers advice in the following areas: 

  • Family and divorce law 
  • Wills and probate 
  • Employment 
  • Consumer/Contract/Commercial law 
  • Landlord and Tenant 

Clients contact FLAG because they have a legal problem in one of the above areas.  In pairs, student volunteers interview their client. The students then spend the following two weeks researching the issue and drafting a letter of advice to the client. The student volunteers are supervised throughout this project by one of the Law School’s supervising solicitors, or by professional volunteers from Mills & Reeve LLP, Shakespeare Martineau LLP or No 5 Chambers. 

Birmingham FLAG empowers law students by giving them the opportunity to take an active role in responding to the legal aid cuts and helping to resolve legal problems. Volunteering with FLAG develops students’ interviewing skills, communication skills, and legal research and writing skills.  

Birmingham FLAG 

Freedom Law Clinic  


Freedom Law Clinic logoThis project provides an opportunity for students to work on appeals through the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC), where individuals believe that they have been wrongfully convicted of a crime. 

Students work in groups on an individual CCRC application which usually involves serious crime and often a complex set of legal questions, such as causation, joint enterprise or disclosure. All casework is completed remotely, using online technology to share your work, and is supervised by an experienced criminal law solicitor based in London. 

Students have full access to extensive case papers, and therefore gain genuine insight into all aspects of criminal defence work, alongside the opportunity to conduct their own targeted legal research, develop specific legal knowledge and put this into practice by drafting materials to support the CCRC application and communicate with their client.The casework is accompanied by a comprehensive online lecture programme relevant to the issues in the case. 

Public legal education

Streetlaw

Linden Thomas of CEPLER holding a public legal education "Streetlaw" session in front of a whiteboard covered in post-its

Birmingham law students deliver public legal education through a number of Streetlaw projects which aim to make people aware of their legal rights and responsibilities.  The sessions are researched and designed by students and delivered using an interactive, learner-centred approach. Some of our recent Streetlaw projects have included: 

  • workshops for service users of local charity Anawim - Birmingham's Centre for Women.  Recent sessions have addressed: divorce law; childcare proceedings; case law updates on specific areas of law (e.g., domestic violence, care proceedings); the law on same sex relationships; and cultural considerations and family law;
  • lessons delivered to local secondary schools, including a ‘Justice Day’ with year seven pupils at the University of Birmingham School, which covered legal topics such as human rights, criminal justice and voting and democracy. Our students also ran a four week ‘Entrepreneurship and the Law’ course for year 12 pupils, introducing them to the legal aspects of setting up a business.  The initiative culminated in the pupils delivering ‘Dragons Den’ style pitches of their business plans to our student ‘dragons’;
  • fortnightly presentations delivered in the West Midlands Employment Tribunal. These sessions are aimed at litigants in person and explain Tribunal procedures and processes to those representing themselves in bringing a claim.

Open Access Videos 

Our students develop videos for service users of charities, to help explain complex legal issues in a clear and accessible way. Students research the relevant law, draft the video scripts, then design and create the videos, utilising their legal research and drafting skills, as well as technological skills.  

Here are some examples of videos that students have developed recently: 

Research and policy

Action4Justice 

Working in collaboration with Oxfam and Action4Justice, under the supervision of Dr Meghan Campbell and Dr Ben Warwick, our undergraduate students researched and wrote content on the right to health for the Action4Justice website, which is an international resource on how to conduct public interest litigation. 

Environmental Law Matters 

In the extract below, former student, Tom Davies, outlines work he did on a collaborative project which focussed on aspects of international environmental law. The students' research led them to make policy recommendations on potential changes to legislation: 

"Along with two fellow students, Anant, and Adela, I worked with the University of Illinois and the Union of Concerned Scientists to produce a memorandum detailing the legal frameworks in various jurisdictions for the recycling of Electric vehicle (EV) batteries. 

"We found the project incredibly interesting, especially given the increasing interest in the application of EVs in day-to-day life. Importantly, we gained a huge amount of knowledge on the legislation in various jurisdictions on the recycling and repurposing of EV batteries. 

"Unusually for a student project we were able to review, research and propose potential policy solutions to the perceived “gaps” in the legislation regarding lithium-ion vehicle batteries. This was a truly unique experience, and one of the many benefits working with experts in the US was that our work was critiqued by a number of scientists and environmental lawyers helping to develop our legal research and drafting skills." 

Externships

Birmingham People’s Centre 

Pro Bono Group volunteers spend half a day each week volunteering with local employment law charity, Birmingham People's Centre.  The charity provides advice and support to individuals who are in dispute with or believe that they have been treated unlawfully by their employer. Students support the charity's case workers and solicitor with their work advising clients. This project provides students with first hand employment law work experience as well as a good understanding of how a pro bono charity operates and the valuable service it offers to the local community. 

Citizens Advice 

Students have the opportunity to volunteer at Citizens Advice Bromsgrove & Redditch as a generalist adviser. They spend a day a week exploring with clients what the problems are that they are seeking help with, researching information and advice that might help the client understand their options and helping resolve the client’s problems by, for example, writing a letter, making phone calls or referring the client elsewhere. This experience helps students learn about a range of issues from benefits to housing and develops their employability skills. 

How to get involved with pro bono at Birmingham Law School:

 

Students

Current Birmingham Law School students are invited to apply to join the Pro Bono Group during the autumn semester each academic year. 

Legal Professionals

If you are interested in working with Birmingham Law School’s Pro Bono Group on a project we would love to hear from you.

We are always looking to collaborate with external partners, whether on an existing project or a new venture.

If you are interested in getting involved in pro bono for the first time and would appreciate having a chat with a member of the team about different pro bono projects or models, we would be happy to help you understand the options potentially available to you.

Please contact CEPLER@contacts.bham.ac.uk

Charities/organisations/individuals seeking pro bono support

We take pride in our ability to be adaptable to the needs of the local community. Every year sees new projects being created, keeping the work we do for our clients and students up to date and responsive to their legal needs.’.

If you are a charity or organisation seeking support from our law students to meet a particular legal need, we’d be very happy to meet with you to talk about how we might work together. Please contact cepler@contacts.bham.ac.uk and a member of the team will respond to you.

If you are an individual or business in need of free legal advice, please visit the Birmingham FLAG website and submit an enquiry. Please note that this service is only available if:

  • You are based in the West Midlands;
  • Your legal query falls within one of the following areas of law – wills and probate, housing, employment, family and civil disputes;
  • You are not facing any urgent deadlines;
  • You do not require legal representation in a court or tribunal.
Pro Bono Privacy Notice

If you are a current or former student and have questions about Qualifying Work Experience (for the purposes of qualification as a solicitor) undertaken during your time at Birmingham Law School, please email QWE@contacts.bham.ac.uk