Alumni spotlight: Vicki Champs, Kent Law Clinic Coordinator

Vicki Champs

Vicki Champs is a class of 2020 Law LLB graduate. She works at the University’s Kent Law Clinic as a Clinic Coordinator whilst studying for a masters in Law.

Based at Kent Law School’s Wigoder Law Building you’ll find the award-winnng Kent Law Clinic. The Clinic provides a free public service to Kent residents who need legal advice/representation but do not have the financial means to pay for it. Students are integral to the Clinic – they have a unique opportunity to deepen and broaden their knowledge of law through working on live cases.

Vicki chose to study Law at the University of Kent after visiting several London universities, but none had the friendly, homely feel that Kent did. Vicki lives locally and was a commuting student living at home.

Vicki participated in the Clinic meetings in her first two years at Kent, which she found not only interesting, but offered a warm and supportive community atmosphere. It encouraged her to take the optional Clinic module in her final third year to experience real-life cases and not just learn about the law from a textbook. Vicki’s sense of social responsibility grew through her involvement, and she enjoyed the satisfaction of seeing her case through from start to finish. Julie Piper, another Clinic Coordinator and current Kent master’s student, also explained in a recent Clinic blog on the impact the clinic has ‘the Clinic not only provides legal help to members of the public, but also enables people to lead better lives as a result of what the Clinic can achieve’.

As was the case for so many others, graduating during the pandemic was a tough time to get recruited into the legal sector, with jobs few and far between, and lots of contracts and schemes being cancelled. Vicki’s persistence paid off however when she contacted Kent Law Clinic for a reference and came away with a job! She now works at the Clinic as a Clinic Coordinator, offering a sense of relatability to students as they go through the same process that she went through.

As she told us when we spoke to her about the qualities needed for the role, equally apply to working with students as with clients ‘Compassion and resilience. At the Clinic, we often help people going through a particularly challenging time in their lives, those who cannot afford costly legal fees and feel that they have nowhere else to turn. The circumstances of certain clients are heart-breaking to hear about so having compassion for what the client is going through, as well as resilience, are key.

From your own experience as a student and now as a member of staff, what opportunities does the Law Clinic offer?
As a student, I liked the Clinic because you can decide how involved you want to be. Of course, I quickly learned that the more you get involved, the deeper your understanding of the law becomes. This is why we encourage students to try out an array of the opportunities at the Clinic, so they can build up their confidence and ready themselves for everyday tasks that they will encounter in the workplace.

For example, students can come along to the weekly Clinic meetings, where we discuss interesting cases and issues arising out of the work we do. These meetings are very informal, and you can participate at your own leisure. Those who attend regularly will develop a greater understanding of the law in action and be the first to hear about Clinic opportunities. Meetings take place every Tuesday at 2pm in the Moot Court, which is on the second floor of the Wigoder building. All you have to do is turn up.

There are also our Monday Evening Advice Sessions. These sessions take place every Monday during term time, from 5.30-8pm via Zoom. They are a fantastic opportunity for students to observe local solicitors and barristers advising members of the public on their legal problems pro bono, all within the comfort of their own homes. To attend an advice session, all you need to do is come into the Clinic and sign up.

Students can also join one of our Casework Groups. Here, you may be asked to consider new requests for advice, carry out legal research, discuss case strategies and report back to Clinic meetings. We have a variety of casework groups on offer, covering many areas of law that the Clinic specialises in, including but not limited to: Housing, Civil Litigation, Family, Employment, and Immigration law. This year, we also started a Tenancy Deposit Action Group, which enables students to carry out casework for and learn more about a subject that will become relevant as they move off campus and start renting themselves. Once again, all you need to do is come into the Clinic and sign up to a group that interests you.

Finally, there is an opportunity for students to write something for the KLC Blog or our monthly newsletter, which is emailed to law students. Students may wish to write about their experience at the Clinic, reflect on a case they assisted one of our solicitor’s with, or discuss a topical issue within an area of law that we specialise in.

What advice can you give to students?
I’d say use your time as a student, straight from first year, to explore as many different areas of law as possible. Get involved with the Law Clinic, take up mini-pupillages or pupillages, use the KLS Outdoor Clerk scheme, join a Law Society (with eleven or so there’s plenty to choose from, or try them all!). Its a great idea to try as many different aspects of law as you can and get experience across the board. It can help you formulate a plan of what you want to do and help guide you before you graduate!

Best of all, drop by Kent Law Clinic and have a chat about what’s currently going on and what you could get involved with at your comfort level. Chat to one of the four Clinic Coordinators at reception and we can help you sign up to sessions.