From Housing Law to the Financial Ombudsman Service – National Volunteers Week Law Clinic series

In recognition of National Volunteers Week 2022, this blog series shares insights into the work of our students who are involved in pro bono activity at the University of Bristol Law Clinic. In this series, we will look at the scope and impact that these vital projects have on the local community, on the development of our students and on our alumni’s commitment to give back.

Dispute resolution, the process of resolving disputes between parties, is a skill that most students will hone whilst in the Law Clinic. In an interview as part of the latest Law Clinic Annual Review, alumna, Georgia Austin (LLB 2020), explains how her experience helped to open doors to a meaningful career.

“I enjoyed my time at the Law Clinic because it was interesting to learn about areas of law outside of my course. I appreciated the opportunity to develop practical legal skills and to use these skills to help members of the community. Whilst at the Law Clinic I worked on a client’s tenant dispute. The mould and damp in his flat had got so severe his health was negatively impacted, his possessions were ruined, and the flat was uninhabitable, meaning he was having to sleep on the streets.

To approach this issue, my case partner and I explored dispute resolution via the civil courts and the Housing Ombudsman. In this case, the Housing Ombudsman wasn’t a possibility since the letting agents and the landlord were not signed up to the Ombudsman’s voluntary jurisdiction.

As a result, we prepared the client to present as a litigant in person to argue his case. The experience helped shape my future career.

“My experience at the University of Bristol Law Clinic laid the foundations for many of the skills I would be developing in the workplace. I now have 30 to 35 cases at a time and having a foundation in case management certainly eased the learning curve. The ability to effectively research unfamiliar, complex topics was also an invaluable skill.”

 

My role in the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS)

As an investigator at the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS), my role is to suggest a resolution to complaints made by consumers against companies providing financial services. As FOS is an independent third party, I assess the evidence presented by both sides and consider it in light of the relevant legislation, regulation, best practice guides and industry standards to suggest a fair and reasonable resolution to the complaint. Investigators spend the first six months of the job in the academy which involves a mixture of seminar learning and hands-on learning.

Following my experience at the University of Bristol Law Clinic, I had laid the foundations for many of the skills I would be developing throughout the academy. For example, the ability to juggle casework with other commitments was an extremely valuable skill to have practiced while at the Law Clinic. I now have a caseload of 30 to 35 cases at a time and so having a foundation in case management eased the learning curve.

Similarly, the ability to effectively research unfamiliar, complex topics was an invaluable skill that I had developed at the Law Clinic. Having developed strong research skills at the Law Clinic was another asset when working to meet my academy targets. Having graduated from the academy, I now work in the fraud and scams department specialising in authorised push payment investment scams.

“This case opened my eyes to alternative dispute resolution (ADR) and the many opportunities there are to resolve issues outside of court. It inspired my application to the Financial Ombudsman Service.”

My caseload includes cases where people have tried to invest using established investment platforms such as JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs, UBS etc. but have been scammed through a cloned company. I consider the individual facts of the complaint to determine whether it was reasonable and fair for the respondent organisation to choose not to reimburse the consumer for their loss under the Contingent Reimbursement Model Code and the Payment Services Regulations.

I was always worried that my first job outside of university would define my career. I was stressed because I hadn’t got a Training Contract lined up straight out of university. However, ultimately this was a blessing because it meant I explored different routes into law. I realised there are many jobs outside of Training Contracts and paralegal roles that allow you to actively use your degree in a meaningful way.”

Further information

Find out more about the work of the University of Bristol Law Clinic and the pro bono activities our students and alumni get involved in by reading our National Volunteering Week 2022 blog series.

 

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