What ‘Teaching Law Firms’ Have to Offer
‘Teaching law firms’ present an alternative to typical higher education that combines a law degree with on-the-job experience. In this feature, we hear more on the concept from Callum Scott, a newly qualified solicitor at NLS Legal. Speaking from first-hand experience, he offers his insights as to the benefits that teaching law firms can offer aspiring lawyers.
For those who may not be familiar with the concept, what does a ‘teaching law firm’ set out to do?
The teaching law firm model has parallels to the teaching hospital model traditionally seen in the medicine discipline context, providing the opportunity for our students to obtain valuable work experience and develop their practical skills alongside their studies.
NLS Legal was the first of its kind when it became regulated in 2015 and it remains a model that is rare in the UK and international higher education sectors.
As a teaching law firm, alongside the typical law school academic and extra-curricular opportunities (student societies; mooting; competitions, etc.) offered at Nottingham Law School, we give our students the opportunity to work under supervision in a regulated law firm. Data shows that this work experience complements and enhances our students’ academic and employability outcomes, with our students consistently more likely to achieve a higher degree classification when compared with their peers who do not undertake work experience with us alongside their studies. There are also opportunities for students to undertake paid placements with us and gain Qualifying Work Experience.
The second, and equally as important, aspect to our work is to help bridge the gap in access to legal services across Nottinghamshire. Through the very generous support of Nottingham Trent University, we can offer pro bono legal services to those who would otherwise not be able to access legal advice – be that because of their financial circumstances or due to other barriers, such as lack of availability of a local legal aid provider.
How does NLS Legal assist local organisations and individuals? What services does the group provide?
NLS Legal provides legal services to individuals and organisations, predominantly from the Nottinghamshire area, who are unable to afford or otherwise access legal representation.
Our ABS status, combined with the incredible resourcing Nottingham Trent University provides us, means that our team of practitioners can offer advice and representation across a large range of service areas – namely business, civil litigation, employment, family, housing, intellectual property, special educational needs and disability, victims’ rights and welfare benefits. Our service includes representing clients in the relevant Tribunal and Courts, and this includes opportunities for our students to undertake the advocacy in many of these cases, something which our Bar students find particularly beneficial.
The teaching law firm model has parallels to the teaching hospital model traditionally seen in the medicine discipline context.
Across our services there is also a significant focus on providing public legal education – through seminars, webinars and information sheets. Such activity helps to expand our reach; educates attendees of their rights and responsibilities and provides our student volunteers with opportunities to develop their presentation and communication skills.
What pro bono opportunities has NLS Legal created for students?
Across the last academic year (2021-22), NLS Legal created 735 opportunities for 619 students, both undergraduate and postgraduate. In addition to extra-curricular volunteering, many students get involved as part of their course, with a number of modules incorporating an element of NLS Legal activity.
Students who work with NLS Legal support the experienced and qualified lawyers in their delivery of advice to clients. The opportunities afforded to students are not confined to case work, however, as students also support our practice management functions through administrative placements, and through the NLS Legal Student Committee with the committee acting as an important bridge between the firm’s full-time staff and the student body. The committee provides feedback from NLS Legal students on their experiences with the firm, promotes opportunities to other students within the law school, and undertakes fundraising activities for other pro-bono organisations like the LawWorks Law School Challenge.
As the first NQ solicitor to qualify with NLS Legal, can you tell us a bit about your professional journey to date?
I first joined NLS Legal – then known as Nottingham Law School Legal Advice Centre – in 2015 as a student volunteer, whilst undertaking my Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) at Nottingham Law School. Following completion of the GDL, I was then fortunate enough to secure employment as a Legal Assistant in 2016, working full time alongside the part-time Legal Practice Course programme from which I graduated from with a distinction in 2019. I was the first person to undertake their solicitor training and achieve qualification with NLS Legal, since it gained law firm status in 2015.
In 2020 I had the honour of winning the Modern Law Awards’ Paralegal of the Year, which was followed by success in Nottinghamshire Law Society’s Junior Lawyer of the Year in 2021.
My professional journey to date has given me the opportunity to practice across a number of different service areas and for a diverse range of clients. I suspect I am one of very few NQ solicitors who juggle Education & Special Educational Needs cases with Intellectual Property work!
As set out above, I qualified with NLS Legal through the SRA’s Equivalent Means scheme. As with the training contract process, an applicant for Equivalent Means must demonstrate experience of practice in a variety of areas (including contentious work) with a set of assessment criteria which aligns with the SRA’s competency framework.
That being said, the Equivalent Means route can be much more flexible than a more-traditional four- (or six-) seat training contract, allowing an applicant to aggregate experience gained over a number of years – and potentially with different employers – as is the case with QWE.
Can you share anything about your career development plans for 2023 and beyond?
Having attained qualification in October 2022, I am looking forward to growing our much-needed Special Educational Needs & Disability service and expanding the service into other education-related matters, such as school exclusions and admissions appeals. Furthermore, like many of my NLS Legal colleagues, I would like to be able to contribute to policy and law reform using the University’s pedigree in research to complement the work of our practice.
Additionally, in line with NLS Legal’s mission as a teaching law firm, I am looking forward to further my mentoring, training and supervision of those who are at an earlier stage in their legal careers – be they full-time members of staff with our firm or be they Nottingham Law School student volunteers who work alongside their studies.
Callum Scott, Solicitor
Nottingham Trent University – Nottingham Law School
Tel: +44 01158 482648
Callum Scott is a newly qualified solicitor at NLS Legal, Nottingham Law School’s ‘teaching law firm’. Callum’s undergraduate degree is in Chemistry and, having completed the Graduate Diploma in Law and Legal Practice Course, he completed his training via the SRA’s Equivalent Means route. Equivalent Means has elements of both the training contract and of the new Qualifying Work Experience (QWE) routes to qualification.
NLS Legal is an SRA-regulated law firm fully integrated into Nottingham Law School, Nottingham Trent University and operating as an Alternative Business Structure (ABS). NLS Legal provides pro-bono legal services to individuals, start-ups and not-for-profit organisations across a number of practice areas. NLS Legal was named ‘Law Firm of the Year’ at the LexisNexis Legal Awards 2022.