Help centres staffed by law students could be made available to divorcing couples, if a recent government announcement is to be believed.
According to a report in The Times, a new network of these student-staffed help centres will be established to essentially “hold the hands” of couples going through the court system.
The report claims they will help to address the fact that around half of divorcing couples now go to court without a lawyer after it was effectively eliminated for family law cases.
Using law students instead of qualified lawyers in an attempt to compensate for this problem is nothing new. The University of Huddersfield set up a similar help centre last year.
The proposed network of help centres is part of the government’s scheme to cut costs in the family justice system.
When I read of this, my reaction was one of horror. As a firm we take on university students for work experience, i.e. for the reasons it says ‘on the tin’. To give them experience, because that is what they are seeking. University students are well meaning and bright. But wanting to help is not enough. Having the skills, experience and sufficient in-depth knowledge of the law to apply it to each person’s individual needs and requirements is simply asking too much of them. It puts the students under too much pressure, and could easily result in complete disaster for the students and those who they are trying to help.