UEL students recognised by MP for their valuable help in constituency surgeries
Stephen Timms praises work of students in helping members of the community
An award ceremony held in the Jubilee Room of the House of Commons marked the successful completion of a new pilot project launched jointly by a group of students at the University of East London (UEL) and their local MP.
From November to August, seven UEL law and criminology students spent one day a week working in the constituency office and surgery drop-in sessions of Stephen Timms MP.
They got to work on range of real-life cases, helping constituents with legal advice, letter writing to government offices and working on immigration, housing and welfare appeals as well as planning applications.
As well as providing a service to constituents, the initiative also offered valuable work experience for the students and an insight into the work of MPs.
Arranged in conjunction with UEL’s Royal Docks School of Business and Law, it is an extension of UEL’s highly successful, Stratford-based Legal Advice Centre, which provides a free law clinic to members of the public.
After presenting the students with certificates in recognition of their work, Stephen Timms said, “UEL law students volunteer to provide an excellent, free legal advice service to local residents.
“I have been very grateful for the willingness of the university, building on the success of that service, to support some of the students to assist with my regular constituency advice surgeries.
“And I am very pleased that the students have been able to use the experience to help plan their future careers.”
The initiative began when the MP approached Professor Matthew Humphreys, the Dean of UEL’s Royal Docks School of Business and Law, with a wish to make politics accessible to students who would otherwise not have the opportunity.
Patrick Koroma, a practising solicitor and director of the UEL Legal Advice Centre, oversaw the UEL side of the arrangement.
Patrick said, “It’s been a very good first year of the initiative and I’m happy with how our students have committed themselves to it.
“UEL is all about giving our students' real-life experience which will enhance their skills and help with employment.
“Together with the UEL law clinic, this initiative shows UEL’s commitment to civic engagement and its relationship to the local community.”
Kalana Taraka Kotelawala, an MA Law student from Sri Lanka and a newly qualified lawyer, found the experience helpful in developing his client consultation skills.
“As an international student, the initiative has been a great experience that will definitely be useful in my legal career,” he said. “It has given me a boost to pursue my legal practice when I return to my country.”
Rachel Yates, a LLB Law student who has just completed her degree and gained a diploma with the National Association of Paralegals via UEL, says her time at university and the experience she gained has helped her plan for the future.
“This was an unbelievable experience which I’m so grateful for,” said Rachel. “It has developed my confidence and given me so many additional skills to add to my CV.
“Not only has it only kept me employable during these three years of studies but it also demonstrates to employers that I’m able to balance my time with conflicting priorities.”
Rachel hopes to work in the social housing sector, especially roles in litigation, anti-social behaviour or income recovery.
“I’m also planning to start the Legal Practice Course to qualify as a solicitor, and start a Master’s in housing.
“As I head towards with my new career plans, I hope to continue volunteering my time with the UEL law clinic as and when needed to show my appreciation for the opportunity it gave me.”