Features | By Sally Gill and John Stevenson

The City service giving local residents access to legal justice

The City Law School’s pro bono offerings have made a significant impact in the local community and beyond at a time when access to legal advice has become increasingly limited.


When Sally Gill joined The City Law School in May 2022 she had a vision: to build on the School’s existing pro bono services and create a unified service which is available to the public without geographical restriction. By October last year, Sally had quickly realised that vision with the launch of the City Community Legal Advice Centre (CityCLAC).


The CityCLAC service, under Sally’s leadership as Director, is based on Sebastian Street. It provides essential advice on a range of legal areas, including family, employment, housing, welfare benefits, general civil litigation, environmental, consumer and small business law. The Centre is part of the LawWorks network of clinics.


As well as providing a vital service to the local community, CityCLAC also enables students to engage with the legal profession in practice, through the School’s Law IRL programme. By collaborating with major law firms and numerous not-for-profit organisations, Law IRL provides students with a wide range of opportunities to experience the law beyond the classroom and In Real Life.

The City service giving local residents access to legal justice
Sally Gill and Ian Shaw from CityCLAC receive a Staff Excellence Award from City’s President, Professor Anthony Finkelstein, for the Law IRL programme.

In the 2022/23 academic year Law IRL students worked directly with clients facing legal issues, supported pro-bono lawyers, and facilitated debating competitions and mock trials with secondary schools. Students also worked with organisations such as Debate Mate; Islamophobia Response Unit; Justice for Tenants and the Refugee Law Clinic.


Many of the Law IRL activities are directed through CityCLAC. Speaking about the CityCLAC service Sally Gill said:

“This is an innovative partnership between lawyers, law firms, and The City Law School that has quickly become a vital resource to the local community of Clerkenwell, an area of inner-city deprivation with a large unmet legal need.”


CityCLAC complements other local providers, focusing on areas where need is greatest. Partners include Taylor Wessing, Travers Smith, Lewis Silkin, Blackfriars Settlement, St Luke’s Community Centre and the Mary Ward Legal Centre.


Innovative delivery model


The CityCLAC service is innovative in that it offers a hybrid delivery model of both face-to-face and online advice sessions. Student advisers work under supervision within the bespoke offices and are trained to conduct client interviews, draft full case summaries, and collate documents.


Clients can approach CityCLAC at any stage of their case and are advised via Zoom sessions, where volunteer lawyers team up with student advisers to provide verbal advice followed up by an advice letter.


CityCLAC’s delivery model ensures that clients such as single parents, and those with disabilities or experiencing poverty, who cannot afford to travel or take time off work, are able to use the service. Advice sessions are conducted in the evening and this provides further opportunities for clients to receive conveniently available advice.

The City service giving local residents access to legal justice

“The conversation about my situation was really detailed and insightful and I was able to ask questions so I could improve my own understanding. I also felt that the team took the time to listen and offer some empathy, which made a big difference to me personally.”


– CityCLAC service user


Award-winning services


In April 2023 the pro bono projects at City Law School were shortlisted for no fewer than four prestigious national awards in the LawWorks Students Pro Bono Awards 2023.


CityCLAC won Best New Pro Bono Activity, and one of its programmes, The School Exclusion project, was highly commended in the Best Contribution by a Team of Students category. The project provides free advocacy to help parents of disabled children appeal against their permanent exclusion. Children with disabilities and special educational needs are at a much higher risk of being permanently excluded. Students work closely with barristers from 11KBW and Matrix Chambers and are responsible for the day-to-day running of cases.

Expanding the support on offer


The CityCLAC Personal Independence Payment (PIP) form filling service opened in January 2023, supervised by a welfare benefits solicitor. Undergraduate students train as advisers and help clients to apply. This year to date, students have assisted approximately 200 clients, many of whom were successful with their claim. It is particularly helpful for clients with mental health difficulties, who struggle to obtain the benefits they are entitled to due to the difficult process of claiming.

“I was really impressed with the knowledge these young people have [about the PIP form filling service] on what information was needed to complete the forms.”


“I was extremely stressed about filling in PIP forms. Your team calmed my nerves in a timely and professional manner.”


– Users of the PIP form filling service


Impact and Partnerships


During 2022-23, 250 students have become student advisers in the CityCLAC and 337 clients have been advised, with a further 215 signposted to other services. CityCLAC has been well received within the advice sector. It is part of Refernet and Help on your Doorstep, which includes GP and mental health services, allowing clients to be referred directly.


Adam Zaki, who manages the Refernet partnership for Westminster Citizens Advice said:

“Since joining the partnership, CityCLAC gives residents access to the justice they deserve and which they do not have the means to seek themselves which is crucial given the rising cost of living in the UK.”


Shaping student careers


Students participating in CityCLAC have successfully used their experience towards developing their future careers. To date several students have been offered paralegal work or a training contract, putting it down to their experience in the Centre:

“My experience helped solidify my intention to become a solicitor. The process of my work at the advice centre; working with so many diverse lawyers and law firms and helping clients through undertaking legal research was thoroughly engaging and enjoyable.”


“It was great to see how lawyers work in real life, including the way they think and their approach to clients. It helped me to better understand the legal profession.”


– Students volunteering at CityCLAC


Get in touch


More information about CityCLAC’s services and contact details are available here.