RLAS receives many requests from students and others who wish to volunteer. RLAS has a simple method of operation:
- only lawyers can provide advice;
- non-lawyers (students (degree, LPC, bar vocational course or paralegals)) can observe.
RLAS keeps to this simple method because of the limited amount of funding we receive each. This limited of funding means that RLAS can only open one each evening week and also that it does not have the administrative resources to manage a large number of volunteers.
As RLAS receives so many requests from non-lawyers who say there is a lack of volunteering opportunities for non-lawyers in legal advice agencies, RLAS would still like to give the next generation of lawyers an opportunity to gain some experience of seeing the giving of legal advice in action. RLAS will accept applications from persons who wish to be non-lawyers volunteers as follows:
Who can be a non-lawyer volunteer
RLAS will accept applications from:
- third year law degree students;
- students who are studying on a postgraduate diploma in law (GDL);
- students who are on a Legal Practice Course or a Bar Vocational Course;
- paralegals (people who are employed by a law firm in the capacity as paralegal).
How many non-lawyer volunteers can RLAS accommodate
At any one time RLAS can accommodate up to 5 non-lawyer volunteers.
How can you apply to be a non-lawyer volunteer
Applications are made in the following way:
How will your application be considered
The RLAS trustees wish to encourage non-lawyer volunteers to volunteer and will normally persons applying who meet the above criteria. However the final decision to accept or not accept applications is that of the trustees.
If RLAS has the maximum number of non-lawyer volunteers on the rota, than you will have the option to be placed on a waiting list or you can re-apply at a later date.
Once you are accepted
Once accepted you will be placed on the rota that RLAS has for volunteers.
How often will you be expected to volunteer
Normally, once every 4 or 5 weeks.
What happens if you fail to turn up to a session
Unfortunately, if you fail to turn up for a session, given the numbers who wish to volunteer, RLAS will no longer be to accommodate you as a non-lawyer volunteer. However, you may re-apply.
General questions and answers to be a non-lawyer volunteer at RLAS
If I am not a qualified lawyer can I interview clients and provide advice?
RLAS aim is that legal advice and assistance is only provided by qualified lawyers. This is how RLAS it makes it service known to clients (that clients will able to gain access to a solicitor or barrister). Also the terms on which we have professional indemnity insurance is that advice only be given by qualified lawyers (as we have defined them).
If you have a legal qualification can you interview clients and provide advice (but are not a qualified lawyer)?
If any of the following apply to you:
- you only have a law degree (or a graduate diploma in law), or
- have finished the LPC but do have not have training contract, or
- have finished the BVC, have or have not been called to the Bar and/or do not have a pupillage, or
- have a legal qualification from another country (whether or not you can practise as a lawyer in that country)
you will still not be able to interview clients and provide advice, as these qualifications do not come within the RLAS meaning of a “qualified lawyer”.
What does volunteering involve if you are not a qualified lawyer?
If you are not a qualified volunteer you may not be able to provide advice or conduct interviews, but you will be able to
- sit on interviews
- see how legal advice and assistance is given and received
- take notes
- carry out any follow up research (where required)
- discuss with the lawyer volunteers legal and practical issues that arise from seeing a client, and
- otherwise help with the running of RLAS sessions (meeting clients, helping clients fill in the RLAS client contact forms etc).
How extensive is the legal experience that RLAS can offer?
Because of RLAS’ limited opening times and focus on providing initial and basic legal advice, we cannot offer practical experience in some areas. For example RLAS does not:
- take on cases in the way that a firm of solicitors or a law centre might
- undertake litigation (in any court or tribunal) on behalf of clients or provide any advocacy;
- not engage in correspondence or written representative work on behalf of clients
What practical experience can RLAS offer?
In addition to the points mentioned above RLAS can offer experience of interviewing and handling clients who come from a wide range of backgrounds and problems (in a time-limited environment), and working with other lawyers.
Are there any areas of law that RLAS does not handle?_
In principle RLAS has no restrictions on what types of law it can deal with. But in practice there are some areas which rarely occur at our advice sessions. These are immigration law, social housing law, criminal law and debt advice and assistance.
If RLAS is not for you, where else can you gain legal (type) experience?
If you have legal qualifications and require more “full-on” practical (legal) experience than RLAS can offer you should consider organisations such as:
- a law centre
- the Free Representation Unit
- a college/university-run free advice clinic (if you are student at the college/university)
If you do not have any legal qualification and you wish to gain experience of providing advice which will involve using and applying the law and interviewing and dealing with clients, you should consider Richmond and other Citizens Advice Bureau.
Last modified: 13 July 2017