Liverpool John Moores University’s School of Law has partnered with Support Through Court, a social justice charity that provides free help to people facing court who cannot afford legal services or access legal aid.
LLB Law students at the university will now help staff the service on site at Liverpool Civil and Family Court, enabling the charity to continue to offer its life-changing work in the city-region on a face-to-face basis.
LJMU already offers free pro bono legal advice and representation through its LLB Law curriculum and the School of Law has supported Support Through Court since 2015 on a voluntary basis. This new, expanded collaboration will enable Support Through Court to continue to grow its service at a time of unprecedented and increasing demand. In 2021, the service supported 2107 people who couldn’t get representation.
LJMU’s School of Law is one of seven law schools to back Support Through Court after the government ended its funding in June 2022 despite the fact that the charity provides support to thousands of people who face court alone each year.
Emma Taylor, Interim Chief Executive Officer for Support Through Court, said: ‘Cuts to our services and the rising cost of living mean that our support is needed more than ever before. Our partnership with LJMU is going from strength to strength, and I look forward to seeing how the new service will develop in Liverpool as we work with the university to provide practical and emotional support to more people going through court alone as litigants in person.’
Rachel Stalker, Clinical Legal Education Programme Leader of the LJMU Legal Advice Centre said: “We are proud to help the vital work of Support Through Court in our local court and help meet rocketing demand from people priced out of hiring lawyers when faced with a personal or professional crisis.”
LJMU opened its new £2.6 million centre Legal Advice Centre (LAC) and Business Clinic on Hardman Street in November when the head of the Faculty of Business & Law, Dr Tim Nichol said the university had “a responsibility to help wider society”.
The university estimates that with the cost-of-living crisis it is no longer just the poorest who cannot afford legal services, with 44% of working single people with no children and 76% working single parents with one child are now in what they call the ‘justice gap’.
The new partnership with Support Through Court will offer students the opportunity to gain practical work experience, supporting people through the court system. They will do so through a telephone service, face-to-face appointments, and attending court hearings, all of which will help them develop essential skills necessary to work in the legal field.
Rachel Stalker added: “Along with the training and supervision Support Through Court provide, students can provide good quality help and support for court users at what is a stressful and difficult time for them. Students can also ensure good links between Support Through Court and the advice services offered in the Legal Advice Centre and other third sector organisations working in the Liverpool City Region, helping support the access to justice ecosystem of which we are a part”.
Support Through Court Liverpool is a busy office, with 11 volunteers and 29 students supporting litigants in person. As a volunteer-led organisation, there remains a pressing need for volunteers with empathy and listening skills to support people unable to access representation in Liverpool.