The event has received high profile support from the legal community

Image courtesy of Exeter City Council

Community Legal Helpdesk takes to the streets in fundraiser

Law academics and students from the University of Exeter will take to the streets of Exeter on Friday 9 March, for a fundraising walk to support the student-led Community Legal Helpdesk based at Exeter County Court.

Baroness Hale, the first and only female judge in the Supreme Court, will lead the walk. She will be joined by students, staff and members of the legal profession locally, who will walk from the Law School to Exeter Court, with stops at some significant landmarks in the city centre. 

The walk is named in the memory of District Judge Jill Wainwright, a friend of the Law School and a member of the steering group which envisaged the Helpdesk. Sadly, Jill passed away in April 2011 and did not live to see the scheme in action. District Judge Steven Arnold highlighted her support for projects like the Helpdesk in his eulogy, paying tribute to a colleague who “was constantly coming up with ways in which the public could be better served by the Court system”.

With reductions in legal aid availability and funding, the helpdesk is a great asset to the local community, offering a free information service to members of the public in need of legal advice. It is also an opportunity for students to get some practical law experience, and receive training from organisations such as Exeter Citizens’ Advice Bureau.

Professor Charlotte Waelde, Head of the Law School explains, “As the provision of government funded services becomes progressively less, initiatives like the Community Legal Helpdesk become increasingly important. Real life experience is great for the future employment prospects of our students, but the real beneficiary is the local community. I hope the Wainwright Walk will become an annual event, raising money for a deserving cause that provides practical help for the people of Exeter.“

Jhenna Mortimer, a third year Law student, volunteers at the Helpdesk two hours every fortnight and spends many more hours in case research. She said, “The experience I’ve gained from working at the Helpdesk is invaluable. Admittedly, it is extra work but giving back to the community always feels good!

“As a student, it is a great opportunity to apply my academic knowledge in a practical setting, and help people who find the legal system daunting, or struggle to get legal advice. With the proposed cuts to legal aid funding, this type of project can offer a lifeline for some. We’re all really looking forward to the fundraising Walk; we even have a small prize for the student who raises the most money.”

The event has received high profile support from the legal community, most notably from leading legal practice Foot Anstey LLP, Simon Gregory, Chairman commented, “We are extremely proud to be involved in this project. We have already provided training for the helpdesk team, and look forward to welcoming the participants of the walk for some well deserved refreshments at our Southernhay Gardens office, in the heart of Exeter, at the end of the event.”

Registration will get under way from 1.45pm in the main University Reception, with groups of walkers setting off between 2.00 and 3.00pm. The walk will end with Baroness Hale officially opening the Community Legal Helpdesk at Exeter Court in Southernhay at approximately 16.00. To take part, please register beforehand. Each individual must raise a minimum of £25, through sponsorship or donations. Visit the Law School Just Giving page, or see the Law School website for further details about the Community Legal Helpdesk and the Wainwright Walk.

Date: 2 March 2012

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