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Our new free Legal Advice Centre manned by University of Bolton law students has been a huge success since opening three months ago.
The service, based in the University’s Institute of Management (IoM) building in Great Moor Street in the town centre, launched at the end of September. The centre was set up against a backdrop of reduced access to legal advice, creating a large gap at a time when more people than ever need legal protection.
The centre received almost 100 enquiries and those requiring help were dealt with by the team of student advisors. Topics raised included issues around family, employment, property, commercial, negligence, wills and probate, tax, criminal, contract, environmental and immigration law.
Ian Bowden, Lecturer in Law at the University, who is also a qualified Solicitor Advocate, said he was delighted with the number of people who had contacted the centre for advice.
He said: “The response has been absolutely incredible and it just goes to show that there is a real need for this kind of service in Bolton. The Legal Advice Centre will re-open its doors to the local community on Friday 7 February and the tremendous demand has led to the number of appointments it offers being doubled. The project started with just 14 third-year students. To enable us to expand the number of appointments this year we will have 46 second-year Law students joining the team.
These students will be learning as they go along, but they will receive all the support they need which will benefit them massively, as well as providing a high-quality service for the people of Bolton.”
When the centre re-opens, appointments will be available every Friday, between 9:30-12:30 and 13:30-16:30. The morning session has been added to accommodate the number of enquiries.
Ian said: “We have continued to receive enquiries throughout the winter break and we encourage anyone who needs legal advice to get in touch so that we can ensure that we can book you in to see our team as soon as possible.
“People often need legal advice but don’t know where to turn. The centre gives them an option and it’s clear it has quickly become a valued service to the local community.”
An online portal, where members of the public can register their legal enquiry can be found at http://www.bolton.ac.uk/legal-advice-centre
Once an enquiry is received, the centre team then provides initial advice on how best to deal with the particular problem.
Students are supervised by Ian and his colleague Zaman Kala, an experienced member of the lecturing team in the School of Law, who also has previous experience in the legal profession. The Legal Advice Centre is also supported by a number of partner organisations.
Ian said: “From the outset, the University has been working in partnership with legal professionals through the Bolton Law Society and with charities and specialist advice services to ensure that every enquiry can be appropriately dealt with, either through the centre team or through our external partners.
Members of the public can be assured that our team are trained in the wide range of skills required of a legal professional and are supported by the University team and our partners every step of the way.”
The centre also features a drop-in format to run alongside scheduled appointments. It will also offer advice to staff and students from the University of Bolton group.