Student experience: Sofia Sormunen reflects on the value of getting involved

This year Sofia was awarded the Brachers prize for Outstanding Contribution to Access for Justice by a student in the Kent Law Clinic. Sofia is a Finnish national who completed her joint honours programme in Politics and Law this summer.

I had heard good things about Kent Law Clinic and wanted to get involved so, when I got an email inviting students to accompany a Clinic Solicitor to a court hearing, I responded!

Offering to help with this case opened a door for me; I got to go to a court hearing for the first time in my life! The case was interesting – it involved a dispute between a landlord and a tenant – and I was able to discuss the issues with the Clinic Solicitor. I also made a valuable contribution to the team by taking careful notes at court. As I enjoyed my first encounter with the Law Clinic so much, I offered to help with a second case.

The second case involved the rights of EU nationals in the UK and involved more theoretical issues than the first. I am very interested in the academic aspects of law and legal theory and Kent Law Clinic has a lot to offer in this regard! Complex EU law questions opened up a pathway for me that, ultimately, helped me decide on a thesis for my Master’s degree. Working for the Law Clinic isn’t just about research, talking to clients and court hearings, it also means engaging with complex questions about society and the state as well. The inspiring people who work for the Law Clinic encourage students to think critically while experiencing aspects of the ‘real life’ legal profession. For a student dreaming of either practising law or staying in academia, the Law Clinic has a lot to offer.

Being involved in the Law Clinic has been an eye-opening and rewarding experience. I didn’t take the Law Clinic module (regrets!) but each case I got involved with was very different, each was closely linked to some of the second-year law modules, and I was still able to make a contribution.

It was amazing to see how the law we had studied in lectures and seminars actually made a difference to people’s lives. It made the content of long days of studying worthwhile and the knowledge gathered more tangible. There is a huge difference in hearing about an area of law in a lecture and seeing how it plays out in a court hearing. Although in the end it engages the same law, the understanding that comes with the ‘real life’ examples made the areas of law more meaningful to me.