Bear with a Care – The Honeymoon is Over

Last week we shared photos of Divoc and Margie‘s ‘Big Day’. Let’s see what has happend since then, now the honeymoon is over.

The bears enjoyed a beary romantic dinner on the 19th May, before returning to normality.

“On this lovely bella notte”

Married Life – Chapter 1

The Honey Moon is officially over!

You missed a bit Divoc…

Time do all that holiday washing…

Call me Alan Titchmarsh

Married Life – Chapter 2

The Battle of the Duvet 

Poor Divoc

Comfy Margie?


The Battle of the TV Remote

A different table for two – who will be the Table Tennis Champion?

Back of the Net! Well done Margie!

The link to the Donna Louise Hospice Care is here, if you would like to help Kath’s Bears with a Care raise money.

Check out the blog every Monday for your weekly update of Bear with a Care.

SULAC – The Year So Far

Staffordshire University’s Legal Advice Clinic (SULAC) has been running for almost two years now, after the launch in October 2018. Tracey Horton, Senior Lecturer in Law with a background working as a Solicitor, is the SULAC Manager and couldn’t be more pleased with how it has been going so far.

 SULAC is run as a 30-credit module in the final year of our LLB degrees. SULAC provides free legal advice to the general public and certain sectors of the community across Staffordshire and Shropshire.

The students are supervised by qualified solicitors and academics. The service provides a letter of advice on a range of issues including housing, family, consumer and employment law and it does not currently undertake case work or provide representation, although the service may be expanded to include this work in the future.

Research shows that around 870,800 people live in Staffordshire of 309,000 households (2017) and, based on the 2015 Index of Multiple Deprivation, 49 of Staffordshire’s 528 lower super output areas (LSOA’s) fall within the top 20% of the most deprived nationally. 

Around 54% of people over 65 in Staffordshire are thought to have a family long term illness. Around 11% of households are believed to be on a low income. These people are likely to have no assets and to be reliant on benefits.

There are a number of areas in Staffordshire where families and communities face multiple issues such as unemployment, poor housing and poor quality of life. With these needs comes the need for legal advice.

Tracey states that “the SULAC module allows the University to help our local community whilst providing the students with ‘real world’ experience. SULAC’s service is a direct response to the difficulties faced by the most vulnerable in our society and to the public sector. Increasingly people are struggling to get legal assistance because of legal aid cuts, court closures and expensive court fees. Many agencies have had budget cuts which makes the situation worse.”

SULAC offers clinics to the general public at various locations, which makes it unique.

“We also wanted to forge links with as many of our partners as possible so that we are able to give something back and assist with any research requirements they may have.

“We have a bespoke case management system which allows us to comply with professional conduct rules, remain paperless and GDPR complaint.”

Here are the areas this year’s clinic provide a service too

Stoke on Trent Combined Court

SULAC provided a drop-in service for the general public, every Monday (term time) at this location.

Signpost Stafford

Signpost Stafford is a grass roots community hub in the middle of a council estate in Stafford. It is a project that was set up in 2007 and is funded through the lottery. There are counsellors there, a food bank and a bank of computers for the local residents to use. In the circumstances, there is already a community presence. In addition to providing legal advice the students integrated into the local community which forged links. SULAC provided a drop in and appointment service on Tuesdays (term time) at this location.

House of Bread

House of Bread is an organisation that provides food and support for the vulnerable and homeless of Stafford. SULAC provided a drop in service once a month.

HMP Stafford

SULAC provided a clinic, once a month, to prison officers and staff at HMP Stafford. HMP Stafford holds around 750 category C prisoners convicted of sexual offences. In addition to providing the service to staff members, the prison officers also educated the students on issues such as probation, outreach and sometimes the students also sat in on prisoner adjudication hearings. The students also undertook a collaborative research project with HMP Stafford aimed at improving outcomes for the men incarcerated.

Royal Stoke and County Hospitals

SULAC provided a clinic, once a month, to staff members at these hospitals.

Military Base

SULAC provided a clinic, once a month, to a military base. We are hoping to expand and develop this clinic.


SULAC offered a clinic once a month to residents of the YMCA. We hope to be able to develop this clinic.

Macmillan Cancer Support

SULAC offered a virtual priority link to cancer patients, within Staffordshire, via Macmillan Cancer Support. Most of the problems related to employment law, particularly returning to work after treatment. It is hoped that this service can be expanded to include street law projects.


SULAC offered a virtual priority link to Gareth Snell, MP and a physical clinic to constituents of Jeremy Lefroy MP.’s constituents. We also offered to assist with any generic research matters. Unfortunately, the dissolution of parliament hindered our progress, but we hope to be able to develop our links with MPs in the future.

Street Law

SULAC provided a street law project to lung cancer survivors on consumer law. We hope to be able to expand these projects to more members of the community in the future.

The Process

No client is seen without a supervisor and no letter of advice is sent out unless it has been approved by a supervisor.

Clients are interviewed by two students and their supervisor. The students will then research the area of law and a letter of advice will be sent to the client within 14 days. No advice is given at the first interview. Where SULAC cannot assist the students will signpost or refer to another organisation, where possible.

“In 2019/2020 SULAC assisted 178 clients (and continuing). 75 of these enquiries related to family law. With just 22 students and one clinic manager/supervisor the level of commitment and dedication of the students was exceptional.”


What the clients say

C:  “Thank you very much for the help you and your students do for the people in need”

P: “Excellent service from all involved. I am now clear on what I have to do. Many thanks”

M:  “I just wanted to drop you a quick email to say thank you for your help. While you weren’t able to help directly, the forms and the “idiots guide” you provided were invaluable. With that help I was able to successfully apply myself. You were a great help and I wish you all the best in the future”

T:  “Was very satisfied. Have been and seen a mediator and she thought you were brilliant and has taken your details”

J: “We used SULAC because it was a free service. We liked the idea of giving students experience in real cases. We needed to know where we stand legally before spending any more money”.


“We were delighted to be shortlisted for “Best New Probono Activity” and “Best Contribution by an Individual Law Student” in the 2019 Attorney General/Lawworks Student Probono Awards; Best Probono Activity and Best Contribution by a Law Clinic in the Lawworks Probono Awards 2019 and the Probono Award in the Lexis Nexis Legal Awards 2020.”

SULAC is a fantastic opportunity for our students and really enhances their employability. They gain real experience working in legal advice, gain complex problem solving skills, emotional intelligence, service orientation, negotiation, people management, critical thinking and much more.

Tracey said “In addition to this it helps with communication, customer awareness, time management and overall confidence. It provides the students with self-discipline and work ethic and several of our students have obtained training contracts because local employers are so impressed with the initiative.

“In addition to assisting with employability our students have also found that the module helped them with their studies, increasing their confidence in group work and helping them to overcome anxiety issues in their personal life.”

SULAC will continue to assist with helping meet the legal needs of the local community and our partners.

SULAC usually only runs in term time and was due to end in March 2020. In light of Covid19, however, we decided to continue the service remotely to assist our local community during this stressful time.

If you would like legal advice or would like to discuss other matters, please contact us:


Staffordshire University

LW106, Ashley 2

Leek Road

Stoke on Trent


Tel: 01782 294800







Bear with a Care – The Wedding

In Last week’s blog we shared the news that Divoc and Margie were engaged! The 12th May was the special day, so let’s find out how it went…

I hear Wedding Bells…

Don’t lose the rings…

Let’s get the party started!

Someone get the best man a glass of water


Destination Bearbados


Let the Honeymoon begin!

Day 1

#TreatYourself – Spa days are a necessity 

Day 2

Just keep swimming…

Day 3

Bear Jovi perform the classic, “Living with a Bear”.

Day 4

The link to the Donna Louise Hospice Care is here, if you would like to help Kath’s Bears with a Care raise money.

Check out the blog every Monday for your weekly update of Bear with a Care.

A Motivational Message from Law Alumni

Law Alumni, Mark Hemming is a Barrister at Goldsmiths Chambers and has been in to talk to our students previously and support in our annual Law Fair. He has written a post to help motivate Law students, which has also been circulated on our Blackboard Community page.

Hi to all students, under- and post graduate at Staffordshire University Law School!

In these difficult times of Coronavirus and Lockdown, I am noticing an increase in requests for assistance and support from law students across social media, largely from people professing to be from a position of disadvantage whether that be socially, economically, financially, geographically or academically.

Whilst I cannot answer to all of these disadvantages, I hope that this outline of my journey, together with my experience of the ever changing, and challenging legal profession thus far, will provide some solace and assistance.

From the outset I invite any or all of you to find me and connect on LinkedIn, which, for those who do not know, is probably the most effective way of getting to know, and being known, in the  legal and business community.

I remember from age 13 wanting to be a lawyer, but for one reason or another, mainly lack of true motivation and commitment, I ended up in work, without having gone to university (other than the School of Life!). Save for an attempt to gain employment as a trainee Legal Executive, which was unsuccessful, for lack of Maths ‘O’ Level (GCSE), I thought I had missed the boat for a career in Law.

Twenty five years ago, this summer, I attended at Staffordshire University Law School for what I thought was a “chat” with the Head, about studying as a mature student. I did not know there was such a thing! I shall not bore you with the details, but by the end of the meeting, I was offered a place to study Law, starting that year, 1995!

After a lot of soul searching and rejigging of finances, I, as a husband, and  father of a three year old, and a 9 week old child, at the age of 32, left my job in Finance, and enrolled onto the LLB (Hons) degree course, a full time student.

It had been 15 years since I had sat an exam, or written an essay, and by the time I had had my first semester results, I wondered whether I had made a mistake in going down this path. It was only when my tutor told me that exam and essay answers were as much about knack as they were about revision and knowledge, that I was able to move on.

Each semester became easier, as I became more savvy in the art of exam preparation and sitting. I had decided to do my studies each day between 9 and 5, in part because they were some of the hours which I had been used to, whilst working. I had also chosen subjects, where possible, which I could do without tortuous hours in an examination room! LLB (Hons) is that, no matter how it’s completed.

By the end of my degree studies I had achieved a 2:1 degree. This in an era when only two of my contemporaries achieved first class honours, one of whom is high flying attorney in Chicago, and the other equally high flying in the City.

I was fortunate, as I really wanted to complete the Bar Vocational Course (BVC), that as I was about to apply to study the Legal Practice Course, it was announced that the BVC was to be franchised from the Inns of Court School of Law to some regional universities.

Nottingham Law School being one of them, I completed my application, and was granted a place.

Another steep learning curve!

I travelled 2 hours daily, by train, 6am, returning on the 6pm, which allowed me to prepare for classes on both trips, something which I still do now, and which meant that the required work to be done in the evening, was minimal. The course was designed to mirror as closely as possible, life at the Bar, where your instructions will be received late, if at all, before your hearing. We were given our pink ribbon-tied brief each evening. Now we are just “invited onto CCDCS” (Crown Court Digital Case System)!

At the time, this course was the one which focussed on advocacy, which I wanted to do, and litigation, both civil and criminal, mostly assessed, rather than examined. The hardest part was having to learn, part way through the academic year, the then new, Civil Procedure Rules!

Much different now, is the Legal Practice Course (as was) in that it covers advocacy, quite rightly. Then, my former undergraduate colleagues informed me that it consisted of how to fill in forms! Not sure how true.

Whilst I am fully aware that I have said nothing about Legal Executives, that is simply because I know nothing about their qualification, and will leave that to someone with more knowledge! Suffice to say that I am fully supportive of the steps taken for them to do the same work as the rest of the profession.

With a few hiccoughs along the way, I passed the BVC as “very competent”!

Having been called to the Bar in October 1999, accompanied to Temple Church, London, by my wife and two children, who had been a big influence and help, along the way, not least because they meant that failure was not an option, I was then entitled to use the title Non-Practising Barrister. I was a lawyer!

Next step, pupillage.

Pupillages were not paid then (and some are still not), indeed pupils had only just moved on from paying for the privilege!

One piece of advice: a pupillage is just that. It matters not where you complete it, and does not prevent you from moving to another perhaps, more lucrative chambers as a tenant, when you will have been able to prove your worth at the Bar, rather than as one of many “unknown quantities” seeking pupillage.

I decided to apply for positions as a clerk/paralegal while waiting for responses to pupillage applications (plenty interviews, all of which were in London! No offers).

I was offered a job in Family law, of which I knew nothing, which I did for 9 months, before moving to study for the Police Station Qualification, completion of which put me in the position of working most evenings and weekends, as well as the day job as a criminal paralegal! Whoopee!

Whilst I am not sure that it can still be done, having passed the BVC, being called to the Bar, and worked for two years in practice “akin to training contract”, I was able to complete another course and transfer my allegiance to the Law Society. In 2002, I was admitted to the Roll of Solicitors, upon which I remain, during which time I have worked in, supervised and directed legal practices and staff.

For completeness, in 2004, I became a Solicitor Advocate, thereby doing the same work, had I completed pupillage, in all higher courts in England and Wales.

All changed again in 2018, when I was defending a trial against a Barrister whom I had known at Bar School. We got into conversation, during which I emailed him a copy of my cv, resulting in my being invited to become a tenant in a London set, and becoming Barrister at Law, almost twenty years after Call.

Work hard, play hard and keep as many options open as possible. It can be done, and there is more than one way to get there. It does not have to be done over a set period of time.

Good luck!

Mark Hemming

Barrister at Law

Goldsmith Chambers

Bear with a Care – Chapter 3

Let’s see what Bear with a Care has been up to since last week – there is some exciting news…

An exciting day on the 5th May – Does Margie say “yes”?

I think she did…time for the Hen Do!

Uh oh, then it was Divoc’s Stag Do! Warning contains adult material. 


VE Day Celebrations on the 8th May – and a chance to have your picture taken with Divoc and Margie 


Margie and Divoc went to the Zoo on the 9th May and there was a cheeky spot the difference competition. Watch out for the wild cats!


Time for a bit wedding organising (some working harder than others)!

And some essential wedding prep…

The link to the Donna Louise Hospice Care is here, if you would like to help Kath’s Bears with a Care raise money.

Check out the blog every Monday for your weekly update of Bear with a Care.


Bear with a Care – Chapter 2

Last week we introduced you to two interesting bears, Divoc and Margie. Their antics have been cheering up locals and colleagues alike, whilst raising money for the Donna Louise Trust.

Let’s see what they have been up to since then…

Breakfast in bed on their camping trip. I hope Divoc made the porridge just right!

Happy #Friyay – it’s the weekend!

First entry for the drawing competition:

Margie wasn’t expecting the window cleaner on Saturday morning!

Sunday night is movie night – who doesn’t love Disney’s The Jungle Book? Excellent drawings from Kath’s daughter.

#MotivationalMonday – time for some studying. Good luck to Margie and all of our students!

The link to the Donna Louise Hospice Care is here, if you would like to help Kath’s Bears with a Care raise money.

Check out the blog every Monday for your weekly update of Bear with a Care.


Bear with a Care

Law Lecturer, Kath Harvey and her family have been cheering up local residents (and colleagues) with the appearance of Divoc and Margie the bears outside their house – and raising money for the Donna Louise Trust whilst doing so.

Donation Link


Here is what the bears have been up to so far…


When Divoc made his first appearance on 13th April, he didn’t have his name yet. He paid tribute to all the hard working Key Workers.

“Who needs Elf on the Shelf when you have Bear with a Care”.

The next day, the poor bear was worn out from his shift!

On the 15th April, Bear took a more relaxed approach…

Kath’s children had an art project to do for school work; they made a pond so the bear could go fishing.

On the 17th April, bear took the dogs for their daily exercise.

Who doesn’t love a bit of gardening? 

On the 19th April, Bear tried his hand at baking – wonder who was brave enough to try that pancake! 

A motivational message to all of Staffordshire University’s hard working Law students – keep guying guys! 

The 21st April was someone’s special birthday – HAPPY BIRTHDAY AUNTIE KERRY!

It’s about time the bear had a name. On the same day, the family created boxes for people to post name suggestions, as well as posting on Facebook. 

Going on a bear hunt…

Successful hunting! First date success

It was time for the big name reveal! Kath’s children chose the names: Divoc (wonder what inspired this name) and Margie.

Some important second date prep… Looking marvelous Margie. 

Smooth operator – Divoc picking Margie up in style.

 Divoc and Margie made the most of the sunshine by having a picnic date.


Third date prep!

Should have gone to Specsavers? Divoc testing his artistic talents on the 28th April, for their third date.

Today they are going on their first camping trip (29th April)! Let’s hope the weather stays nice.

What has been your favourite Bear with a Care activity so far?

The link to the Donna Louise Hospice Care is here, if you would like to help Kath’s Bears with a Care raise money.

What will the bears get up to next…

Why Choose Staffordshire University Law Department?

Law Lecturer, Kath Harvey tells us why she is #ProudToBeStaffs teaching our Law students at Staffordshire University. 

I joined Staffs Law Department in 2017  as a part time hourly paid lecturer, delivering skills sessions in interviewing and negotiation. It was an opportunity for me to “dip my toes” before taking the plunge into the world of academia. A world which was unfamiliar to me, a practitioner of almost 30 years specialising in Civil Litigation, Housing, ASB amongst other less exciting areas.  Did I enjoy it? Absolutely! I soon realised that I could contribute something of value to the student experience, a chance to bring the text book to life. With so many life experiences I couldn’t resist basing the exercises on actual cases I had dealt with over my career .The feedback from the students was heartening and encouraged me to take “the leap”.

Joining Staffs full time in 2018 I was tasked with delivering Property Law at undergraduate, Work Experience and Criminal and Civil Litigation on the LPC. Again, I seized the opportunity to bring law to life, sharing my many real life examples (some very embarrassing, but nevertheless it helped the students to remember the legal principle or the case!) to enhance the text book theory.  Not a single property student leaves the module without understanding what title means! (unlike myself who naively informed the Judge that it was “Miss” rather than “Freehold”!! – back in my paralegal days I hasten to add).

Often the students ask “do you prefer teaching or being in practice”? A difficult one to answer. After years in practice I am enjoying the job satisfaction that teaching brings. Winning your case after months of hard work, beating your opponent, getting a just result is rewarding that’s true, but seeing your students grow in confidence, watching them succeed, encouraging them to reach for the stars is a whole new job satisfaction.

So why choose Staffs Law School? Because we care that’s why.

Level 4 LLB students engage with some critical aspects of mooting.

Some of our LLB (Hons) Law students, at Level 4, took part in a practical exercise in March where they engaged with some of the critical aspects of mooting.

This took place in their module ‘English Legal System and Legal Skills’.

The module teaches student about what the English legal system is, how Laws are made and how the system works. The module then develops students’ negotiation skills, how to present information, debate, conduct research and other skills to purse a successful career in Law.

Preparation for Parental Leave

Lauren Evans (student)

Employees are entitled to shared parental leave (“SPL”) and statutory shared parental pay (“SHPP”) if they have a baby or adopt a child. Employees can start SPL if they are eligible. Parents are able to decide between them how much time they choose, and who will take it, however in a recent Yougov survey 78% of HR professionals felt that there were problems offering it in their organisation so it appears that there remains a stigma attached to taking this leave.

As societal norms are changing more fathers should feel able to ask for time off or assert their right to participate in childcare. Law Firm Winckworth Sherwood suggests ‘organisations should be preparing for more staff taking shared parental leave, as attitudes towards caring responsibilities begin to shift and more employers decide to enhance pay for parents taking the entitlement’.

More parents are opting to take this, although there are barriers. It is a complex statutory scheme and it is ‘relatively low paid’. Fathers are calling for the pay to match the extended maternity pay. If this happens, or employers agree to this voluntarily, it is expected there will be a major change in shared parental leave.

HR decision- makers told researchers for its’ “Shifting attitudes to flexible working and childcare for working parents’ report that they had seen an increase in requests for SPL and working hours being adapted to assist two working parents.

At Staffordshire University Legal Advice Clinic ( SULAC) we offer free legal advice on employment matters for members of the public. SULAC is currently open and offers appointments in Stoke on Trent and Stafford. For more information or to book an appointment please contact or call 01782 294 800.