LawWorks Clinics Network InfoExchange on environmental law at clinics

The March InfoExchange discussed the environmental law issues clinics can get involved in, the importance of partnerships and the role of volunteers.

Tom Brenan Tom is the Environmental Law Foundation’s (ELF) Head of Education & Policy and responsible for ELF’s University network and Young ELF programme. Tom described how ELF work to give communities a voice in environmental issues which impact on them. As well as an advice and referral service, ELF have an outreach service which helps public legal education. For the universities project, ELF triage cases and refer to their universities network. ELF also work with students and universities on policy issues.

Joanna Smallwood is lecturer in law at University of Sussex co-heads the Environmental Justice Law Clinic. Jo explained how she set up the clinic a year ago and the issues it focuses on, which includes protection of species, protecting ecology and amenity in planned housing developments, addressing environmental concerns in the planning system, environmental noise cases, access to environmental information, and air quality cases. The clinic works in partnership with ELF and provides free legal advice as well as research. Jo described how the clinic operates, how the students get involved, links with the local profession and the types of work they had carried out, including freedom of information requests and temporary road closures for toads at night on traditional migratory paths.

Brontie Ansell is a senior lecturer in law in Essex Law School and a supervising solicitor at the University’s Law Clinic and is also a co-founder of Lawyers for Nature. Lawyers for Nature has 2 co-directors who work closely with various stakeholders, including local community groups, law firms, individual solicitors and students, some of which are overseas. They use Discord as a tool for collaboration. At the moment Lawyers for Nature is working on a case against Network Rail who cut down trees (and habitats) and scoping potential for engagement to mitigate further works.

Richard Owen, Professor at Hillary Rodham Clinton School of Law at Swansea University, Director of the Swansea Law Clinic described the approach that the clinic has. Richard recognises that for many clients litigation isn't the most popular option and seek quick(er) solutions. This has certainly been the case over the pandemic where people haven't been coming forward with issues.

Richard also talked about the Well Being of Future Generations Act (Wales) 2015. There are different views in the legal community as to the effectiveness of this Act in taking legal action. There are environmental, social and cultural goals in the Act which are all intertwined. Richard described a particular case over floods in an ex-mining community.



Following this InfoExchange we have a training session ‘Environmental law – raising clinics awareness’, if you are interested in attending, you can register on Eventbrite.

Details of upcoming LawWorks training are on the LawWorks website in the training and events section. If you do not already receive the training bulletin you can sign up on our website.


Year of Publication

Date of publication

Friday, April 1, 2022

Area of law

Date last reviewed

Friday, April 1, 2022