Shelter – Court Desk Volunteers

About the project

Shelter helps millions of people every year struggling with bad housing or homelessness through their advice, support and legal services.

Hertfordshire Law Clinic and Shelter launched their Court Desk Volunteer Scheme in December 2019.

The Scheme involves student volunteers attending Watford and Hertford County Court in pairs on a weekly basis to support the Duty Solicitor as she helps vulnerable people facing homelessness as a result of housing repossession or mortgage arrears.

Role of student volunteers

The student volunteers assist the duty solicitor with triaging the cases by managing the queue of waiting clients, interviewing clients to find out basic essential information, recording client details and helping with the completion of legal aid paperwork. They also assist clients with their paperwork and facilitate communication between the clients and the duty solicitor, usher and others in court.

The students also have the opportunity to observe negotiations and court hearings. As a result of the help provided by students, the Court Duty solicitor has been able to increase the number of people she can assist.

'We saw 11 clients, 9 of them all in the morning session. I know for sure that all of the clients got better outcomes with us being there, but also that the help of the students was critical to the smooth running of the session - many of the clients would have got frustrated waiting, gone into court without that help and not done so well. That is why I wanted help, and the students definitely stepped up to do that.'

Shelter Duty Solicitor

In relation to the court sitting on 16 December 2019

Commitment Requirement

Students are required to volunteer one day per month.

Person Specification

Applications are welcome from LLB Level 6 & LLM Legal Practice students.

Application Procedure

We will next be recruiting for students in October 2020

'Working one-on-one with the solicitor and clients on real-life cases really helped me understand what work goes into it. Especially as most of these cases are final eviction hearings, you get to see the solicitor trying everything in her power to either extend or limit the possibility of an individual leaving court homeless. We saw various people of different racial backgrounds, genders and abilities and it really put into perspective how each client is unique and how each case should be treated as so. The judges were also very friendly and allowed us to sit at every hearing so we not only understood the client’s needs and listened to the possible remedies, but we were able to experience the case going through to the judge and hearing their decisions'

Feedback from a Shelter student