Help through divorce at University of Suffolk law clinic

Eleanor Scarlett’s journey started with an email. 

A practising criminal lawyer based in London, she was keen to move to the East Coast with her partner and young son and she had noticed something Suffolk didn’t have. 

“I sent an email to the university asking if they had thought about setting up a university law clinic. It turned out they had. Soon afterwards, a job came up, I applied and before I knew it,  I was moving to Suffolk!” 

Ipswich Star: Staff, students and pro bono solicitors at the University of SuffolkStaff, students and pro bono solicitors at the University of Suffolk (Image: University of Suffolk)

Eleanor’s sense of justice is innate, possibly because she is one of 11 children and used to having to fight her corner.  

Her aim with the legal advice centre is two-fold. 

As a law lecturer at the University of Suffolk, she is keen that her students have an opportunity to learn on the job and start helping people as they learn. 

On the legal side, it’s an opportunity to help people make the right choices when they find themselves in difficult circumstances. 

“We asked the students what they wanted to focus on and because it was lockdown when we were planning it and there were reports of a significant increase in domestic abuse cases, they chose family law.” 

It was Eleanor who chose the other aspect of the clinic – business law. “There are a lot of jobs in that field and I wanted students to experience that side of things too,” she said.  

Ipswich Star: Fighting for Suffolk folk - the painting on the wall in the University legal advice centreFighting for Suffolk folk – the painting on the wall in the University legal advice centre (Image: Liz Nice)

Since the legal advice centre launched in May 2022, it has helped many people in the early stages of divorce, people with child custody issues and people who are starting up their own businesses. 

They work closely with the Anglia Care Trust to support those suffering domestic abuse. 

“I hadn’t appreciated the number of people who need help in that area,” Eleanor said. 

They also support prisoners at HMP Hollesley with family law matters.  

On the business side, they help new companies avoid the pitfalls new owners can fall into through lack of experience. 

“Franchisees have to be careful they don’t get locked into an agreement that ties them to making stringent monthly payments whether the business is succeeding or not,” she said. “We can also help them with protecting their intellectual property and agreements with shareholders.” 

The advice the legal advice centre offers is free and they are supported by a number of pro bono lawyers who give their time to support the enterprise. These include Andrew Tubb from Birketts LLP, Paul Whittingham formerly of Ashtons Legal (now retired) and Richard Port MBE from George Green solicitors.  

“We can help with child arrangements orders, legal aid eligibility, parental responsibility and divorce and financial orders,” says Eleanor.  

“We’d like to be able to do more and that can be frustrating – for example I am working on getting us the extra help we need for us to be able to file non-molestation orders for people. But we do as much as we can.” 

“Free legal advice isn’t easy to come by and we can be a very useful first port of call for people to put them on the right path, while helping our students to get practical experience at the same time.” 

Ipswich Star: Megan Bailey, left, is a former student who now works for the clinicMegan Bailey, left, is a former student who now works for the clinic (Image: Liz Nice)

One of those students, Megan Bailey, now works for the clinic as a legal assistant. “It’s very rewarding,” she said, “as I can see the impact we have on our clients and our community.” 

The Legal Advice Centre was recently a runner up in the Stars of Suffolk awards run by the East Anglian Daily Times. 

“It’s good to get some recognition,” said Eleanor. “A colleague put us in for it so it was a lovely surprise. We want to keep the legal advice centre growing because we can see Suffolk has a need and we will keep doing all we can to fulfil it.” 

For help from the legal advice centre, fill out the online application form at uos.ac.uk/about/legal-advice-centre/ 


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