Student law clinic saves day for Strathclyde bride

October 10, 2003

Strathclyde University law students have saved the day for a bride-to-be who was told her £400 deposit could not be refunded after her wedding dress was made to the wrong measurements.

The students, who are taking part in a pilot law clinic scheme, intervened, and the shopkeeper provided a new dress at a reduced price, as well as accessories and help with preparations on the wedding day.

Strathclyde this week launched a university-run law clinic, the first in Scotland, giving free legal help in non-criminal matters to people who cannot afford a lawyer and do not qualify for legal aid.

The clinic is the brainchild of Donald Nicolson, who said that although there were some university law clinics in England they were not the norm, unlike in the US.

The UK tended to focus on legal texts in teaching, while American schools were more interested in law "as it happens in the real world", Professor Nicolson said. Strathclyde's clinic was not part of students' assessed work, but a way of giving something back to the community.

"Often cases that are hugely important to individuals go unresolved because people feel they cannot afford legal advice. We're here to fill that gap and complement existing legal services provided by lawyers and the Citizens Advice Bureau, " he said.

The 28 volunteers, many of them graduates studying for a legal diploma, are supervised by Professor Nicolson and have access to expert legal advice inside and outside the university.

"The students have loads more time than professionals - it's not on a half-hour, one-hour, time-is-money basis," Professor Nicolson said.

The Strathclyde students have also acted for a tenant who found there was no money in his bank account because his housing association had mistakenly taken two months' rent instead of one. The money was refunded and he was compensated for the bank charges incurred.

The clinic is currently giving advice on compensation to a university researcher who had months of research wiped from her hard drive by a firm doing work on her computer.

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