In the first post of the Warwick LinC blog we asked Millie – one of our summer 2022 interns – to share with us her experience of working in an independent charity and how it helped her think about her future in law.
Millie Jeavons – LinC Summer Intern 2022
As a student interested in social justice law, I have been volunteering with Warwick Law in the Community (LinC) since my first year at university. I have always known that I did not want to work within the corporate world and Warwick LinC offer opportunities that have allowed me to gain valuable legal experience whilst giving back to the local community. As a result, I was keen to apply for the internships they offered over the summer.
I spent the past summer interning with Coventry Independent Advice Service (CIAS), a small charity dedicated to providing free and impartial advice to residents across the city. The organisation specialises in benefit and debt advice and advocates for public legal education by ensuring that their clients are aware of the help they are entitled to. This work is even more valuable in the face of the current cost of living crisis and due to the fact that billions of social welfare benefits go unclaimed each year. Coventry Independent Advice Service work with the objective of empowering their clients, ultimately reducing the reliance on their services, to ensure that clients are financially secure and able to challenge unfair decisions. This in turn enforces lasting change.
During my time spent with the organisation I had the opportunity to assist clients who have health conditions or disabilities with Personal Independence Payment claims. This was immensely beneficial to me, as I was involved in the whole process, aiding clients with new claims, reviews, mandatory reconsiderations, and appeals. This undoubtedly developed my legal drafting skills, particularly when challenging benefit decisions at the appeal stage. Due to the high demand for the service in Coventry, I was meeting up to ten people a week, enriching my client communication skills invaluably. It was made clear to me that work in the advice sector is very client focused, which makes it a great option for students looking for experience to further their legal career. Importantly, working within the advice sector may be a viable career option for students with a law degree that do not think practising law is for them.
I was also able to accompany experienced caseworkers to provide advice in local communities in Coventry’s social supermarkets. These operate in a reactive and fast-paced fashion making for a flexible, varied and interesting workday. Meeting with residents in these hubs often sparked the need to assist clients to apply for extra help and support. As a result, I was able to advocate for clients in charity grant and household support fund applications to help provide aid in response to the rising cost of living. The work I was able to do over the summer was very rewarding and the gratitude expressed by many clients indicated just how vital advice services are, not only to individual and family finances, but also to overall wellbeing. During my time spent with CIAS I was able to visit both Canley and Foleshill social supermarkets, which operate quite differently despite sharing the same purpose. It was thoroughly engaging to develop different strategies of offering advice depending on the specific clientele to ensure optimised support was provided.
I would strongly encourage students who are interested in non-conventional law careers to consider getting experience within the advice sector. There are many opportunities available that enhance important legal skills whilst allowing you to make meaningful impact and change. I am grateful that Warwick LinC was able to offer these internships, especially as they were paid. I would not have been able to participate in this opportunity without the support provided. I am appreciative that both Warwick LinC and CIAS were engaged in tailoring the experience to my interests and passions. Even within my interview I was asked what I would like to gain out of my potential experience, making it clear from the start that internships are in place to offer students like me valuable experience.
Prior to my internship I had some idea of what working within the advice sector might be like, but nothing could have prepared me for the immersive insight I received. CIAS and many advice organisations across the UK provide crucial support to those most vulnerable within our communities and being able to contribute to this support was immensely rewarding. I would recommend any students with a passion for social justice to immerse themselves within their local law centres or advice services to develop vital skills and to experience what a potential career in this sector could look like. I would like to thank Warwick LinC for supporting me to undertake this opportunity and hope that students are inspired to apply for upcoming opportunities, especially those within the advice sector.