How to get free help in court

Free help from CLOCK Community Legal Companion

Going to court without any legal representation in the form of a solicitor or barrister is known as being a litigant in person or a LiP. 

More and more people are going to court as litigants in person in England and Wales. 

If you do not receive legal aid, are short of money or need to cut costs, there is a free service that can help you go to court without legal representation and help you deal with court paperwork.

CLOCK (Community Legal Outreach Collaboration, Keele ) aims to fill this gap so that you’re not left to your own devices.

What is CLOCK? 

CLOCK (Community Legal Outreach Collaboration, Keele) is named after the Keele University School of Law, where it was set up in 2012.

CLOCK provides you with the help you need, if you attend court without legal representation. 

The scheme deals with family, debt or housing matters.

CLOCK services are free of charge.

How does CLOCK work?

CLOCK is staffed by Community Legal Companions (university law students) who have undergone in-depth and ongoing training.

Community Legal Companions can help you by:

  • Assisting you with your court application forms
  • Helping you to sort out your paperwork
  • Attending court hearings with you and remaining with you during the hearing
  • Taking notes for your during your court hearing

CLOCK’s Community Legal Companions can also refer you to partner organisations and services such as charity support services and mediation support services.

These partner organisations can give you additional help, including advice. 

Finding and using CLOCK

CLOCK is now available in County (family law) courts throughout England.  Brighton County Court is one of the most recent to offer CLOCK services. 

Search online for your local CLOCK service to get help from Community Legal Companions in your area and to make a booking or find out opening hours. 

You may also find leaflets in your local court advertising the CLOCK service.

Pop-in appointments in a dedicated room at the court are generally available on a first come first served basis.

Although Community Legal Companions operate on a roster basis, it is possible, for continuity, to ask whether you can see the same Legal companion the next time you go to court. 

For example, you may prefer the same Legal Companion who helped you with your paperwork, to accompany you to a court hearing on the same matter.

In all cases, you will be asked to fill in a brief form before receiving free help from CLOCK.  This is to give your consent for Legal Companions to help you with your personal information, and to help CLOCK monitor the number of people using the service and the type of help given.

How to get the best out of your CLOCK session

  • Draw up a timeline of events (particularly for family matters)
  • Bring all your paperwork with you (correspondence from the court, from solicitors etc.)
  • Think about what you need help with before your appointment – so that you can make the best use of the time available
  • Try to keep it factual – so that your Legal Companion can help you or signpost you to the best service for you
  • You’ll need to do this for each area of the divorce that you need help with, so if you need help with financial matters, bring all the paperwork relating to this area

Things to remember:

Community Legal companions are law students and are not fully qualified legal practitioners.  They can not give you legal advice or represent you in court.  Their role is to assist or accompany you or to refer you to specialist advice services.

Community Legal companions tend to work in teams of 2 during court opening hours and may not always be readily available during busy periods, during university vacations or exam periods.

CLOCK generally runs during court opening hours (typically 9am-5pm).

CLOCK may not be available in your local area, but it may be possible for you to attend the nearest CLOCK service for help with paperwork.

If you would like a Community Legal Companion to accompany you to a court hearing, you’ll need to make sure that the hearing is due to take place at a court where there are Community Legal companions.

CLOCK has been warmly welcomed by courts and their staff, and I have personally seen judges who have been very keen to support CLOCK.

Note: If there is only one Community Legal Companion available, only you or the other party will be able to use the service at that time.

Copyright © Going to Court Alone – Debbie Thomas