SEEKING legal advice can be a costly affair, more so following cuts in legal aid. But a pioneering scheme by the University of Bolton is ensuring such advice is open to all and not just those who can afford it. Saiqa Chaudhari reports.

A NEW free legal advice centre manned by law students from the University of Bolton has been a huge success in its first three months.

The service, based in the University of Bolton’s Institute of Management (IoM) building in Great Moor Street in the town centre, was launched at the end of September.

The Bolton News:

The centre was set up against a backdrop of reduced access to legal advice, which has created a large gap at a time, says the university, when more people than ever need legal protection, with a growing number representing themselves in court.

Up to Christmas, the centre received almost 100 enquiries, and those requiring help were dealt with by the team of student advisers.

Topics raised included issues around family, employment, property, commercial, negligence, wills and probate, tax, criminal, contract, environmental and immigration law.

Ian Bowden, lecturer in law at the university, who is also a qualified solicitor advocate, said he had been delighted with the number of people who had contacted the centre for advice.

“The response has been absolutely incredible and it just goes to show that there is a real need for this kind of service in Bolton,” he said.

The legal advice centre reopened its doors to the local community this month, and the tremendous demand has led to the number of appointments it offers being doubled.

The Bolton News:

Ian said: “The project started with just 14 third-year students, so to enable us to expand the number of appointments this year we will have 46 second-year law students joining the team.

“These students will be learning as they go along, but they will receive all the support they need and learning in this way will benefit them massively, as well as providing a high-quality service for the people of Bolton. The university has set itself to be at the heart of the community and this was something we could do while giving students a chance to to take the theory and apply it in a real life situation.

Appointments are booked in every Friday, between 9.30am and 12.30pm and 1.30pm and 4.30pm. But students often work through their break to resolve the case ­— with one student firing an email off to Ian at 2.45am seeking advice on a case.

The morning session has been added to accommodate the rising number of enquiries.

Ian said: “We have continued to receive enquiries throughout the winter break and we encourage anyone who needs legal advice to get in touch so that we can ensure that we can book you in to see our team as soon as possible.

“People often need legal advice but don’t know where to turn. The centre gives them an option and it is clear it has quickly become a valued service to the local community. “

An online portal, where members of the public can register their legal enquiry, can be found at

Once an enquiry is received, the centre team then provides initial advice on how best to deal with the particular problem.

Students are supervised by Ian, with final year students have a chance to take on their own client, under the watchful eye of Ian.

The legal advice centre is also supported by a number of partner organisations.

Ian said: “From the outset the university has been working in partnership with legal professionals through the Bolton Law Society and with charities and specialist advice services to ensure that every enquiry can be appropriately dealt with, either through the centre team or through our external partners.

“Members of the public can be assured that our team is trained in the wide range of skills required of a legal professional and are supported by the university team and our partners every step of the way.”

The centre also features a drop-in format to run alongside appointments. It also offers advice to staff and students within the university group.