The programme is called Community Legal Action Student Programme (CLASP) and is headed up by Harriet Samuels, Reader in Law, Centre for Law, Gender and Sexuality at Westminster and David Roberts, Principal Lecturer, Director of Clinical Legal Studies. The programme aims are to:
- Train student volunteers in basic legal tasks
- Introduce students to community issues and the broader responsibility of legal professionals
- Act as a clasp or link between the legal, academic, student and the community
- Provide students with real life and work related experience in the workplace
- Draw on the research expertise within the School of Law at the University of Westminster on the legal profession for the benefit of the community
- Build on the volunteer tradition at the University of Westminster and the work of the pro bono centre
The first batch of students were invited to apply to the programme in May 2013 and twenty students were selected on the basis of their academic performance, personal statement and references from academic staff. The students attended an intensive one week course in July 2013 led by David Roberts (solicitor and judge), Harriet Samuels and Marc Mason (barrister at law).
The course was an intensive training programme that covered workplace ethics and confidentiality, diversity and equality issues, client interviewing and an introduction to welfare benefits and housing law. Students worked in small groups and conducted role-plays as part of a problem based learning strategy. There was also a one day session on family law and domestic violence. Various voluntary organisations to discuss the issues addressed by the organisation and attended and as a consequence students have now taken up volunteer positions at Hestia Westminster Domestic Abuse, Age UK, National Autistic Society and Red Cross UK. The programme has been a great success with students and it is hoped that it will be repeated this year.