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The Welsh Rugby Union/Cardiff University Legal Advice Scheme - Questions and Answers

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What is this Legal Advice Scheme?

This scheme has been established as a partnership between the Welsh Rugby Union and Cardiff University’s Law School, to offer free legal advice to eligible member clubs of the Welsh Rugby Union.

The purpose of this scheme is twofold:  to provide a service to member clubs and at the same time to offer law students a practical opportunity to learn about the law in action. The intention is that this scheme will be utilised by member clubs for one-off legal advice in relation to operational matters affecting member clubs, thereby saving member clubs from incurring legal fees and expenses.

In addition to offering free personalised legal advice to member clubs, it is anticipated that the students will prepare legal newsletters for distribution to member clubs which will highlight relevant legal issues affecting rugby clubs in Wales.

Who are the people behind the scheme?

This scheme has been developed by Rhodri Lewis (the Welsh Rugby Union’s Head of Legal Affairs) and Julie Price (Director of Engagement and Employability, Reader in Law, Cardiff Law School).

 

Rhodri Lewis, Julie Price, Gareth Williams and Cathrine Grubb

Rhodri Lewis, Julie Price, Gareth Williams and Cathrine Grubb.

 

The Welsh Rugby Union and Cardiff University’s Law School are fortunate that this scheme will be supported by qualified solicitors from the law firm Hugh James and barristers from Civitas Chambers in Cardiff and are grateful for the support and assistance of Gareth Williams (Senior Partner, Hugh James and the Welsh Rugby Union’s Company Secretary) and Cathrine Grubb (Barrister, Civitas Chambers).

Why is a University law school involved?

The Law School is the department of Cardiff University that teaches law, ranging from undergraduate law courses to professional law training, such as the Duty Solicitor Scheme and Expert Witness training. The Law School is committed to giving its students the chance to learn about “Law in the Real World”. They learn by researching legal issues and explaining their advice in ways that can be understood by non-lawyers. This partnership with the Welsh Rugby Union is one of several schemes offered under the Law School’s “Pro Bono” (essentially meaning “free of charge”) programmes.  As part of its community engagement work, the Welsh Rugby Union is keen to support law students developing their legal skills in this carefully supervised and unique way, helping them to learn from real legal issues that affect the world of club rugby in Wales.

Who is eligible for free legal advice under this scheme?

This scheme will be made available to the Welsh Rugby Union’s member clubs that play below the Principality Premiership. As such, the scheme will not be available to the Regions or any member club playing in the Principality Premiership. 

This scheme is intended to provide legal advice to member clubs themselves and also to those individuals (e.g. officers and committee members) with legal responsibility for running member clubs, where the advice needed relates directly to operational club affairs.

This scheme does not extend to personal legal advice being sought by individuals that are members of or involved with a member club.

Who can seek this advice?

Initial requests for advice should be received from a member club’s Honorary Secretary.  This is to ensure that the advice is being sought with the authority and approval of the member club.  However, the Honorary Secretary will be able to provide authority in writing for the students to deal with another delegated person on the member club’s behalf.

What type of advice can clubs ask for?

The intention is that this scheme will provide advice in relation to the majority of legal issues that affect an eligible Welsh Rugby Union member club.  The students have access to a wide range of expertise and are confident that pertinent advice can be provided on most queries.  However, it cannot be guaranteed that advice will be able to be provided on all “unusual” or highly specialised areas of law and practice. In the very unlikely event that the students cannot assist, they will endeavour to provide member clubs with details of others with relevant expertise.

It is important to note that it will not be possible for this scheme to provide any advice to member clubs in respect of (i) criminal matters, (ii) employment or contractual matters relating to players, (iii) any matter that requires advice on or in connection with the Welsh Rugby Union’s rules and/or regulations or decisions of the WRU Board, (iv) insurance matters or (vii) any other matter(s) specified by the Welsh Rugby Union from time to time.

No advice can be provided in respect of any potential claim against the Welsh Rugby Union, Cardiff University, Hugh James or Civitas Chambers, or any of their employees or agents.   

How far will the advice extend? Can it cover court representation?

This scheme will cover initial legal advice only and will not extend to any court or tribunal representation. Member clubs will receive tailored and practical advice if their query relates to a court or tribunal matter, even though it would not be able to provide representation for the member club. The scheme will also aim to point member clubs in the right direction for other sources of assistance if it cannot assist beyond the initial advice.

When will this scheme run? What are its operating times?

The formal launch date for this scheme is 6 November 2012. It will be fully operational during normal University term times.  Terms are approximately from late September until mid-December, then from mid January until mid June, although exact term dates vary and will be published on MyWRU.

What if a member club needs urgent legal advice?

Unfortunately, this scheme will not be suitable for member clubs that need immediate or urgent advice (e.g. where a court date is pending) or during the longer University summer break.

If a member club has a legal issue that cannot wait for the scheme to re-start after term breaks, they should consider whether they will need to seek legal advice from other sources.  All queries received under this scheme by Cardiff Law School outside term time will receive a response within 7 days indicating when the query will be considered in accordance with this scheme and aiming to offer alternative suggestions to the member club in the meantime.

How will member clubs know that the legal advice they get is correct if law students are advising, and can clubs rely on the advice they get?

This scheme will be closely managed and supervised by academic staff at the Law School, most of whom are qualified solicitors or barristers.  By way of analogy, Cardiff University’s law students involved in this scheme will learn about legal issues in the same way that medical students, as part of their training, see patients under the supervision of qualified doctors. 

In addition, before any advice is given to member clubs, it will be reviewed by supervising practising solicitors or barristers. These practising lawyers take full responsibility for the advice given under their own professional insurance policies. In other words, they will underwrite all advice given to member clubs under this scheme.

What quality of legal advice will member clubs get?

This scheme aims to provide the same high quality and comprehensive legal advice that member clubs would expect if they were paying for the service from practising solicitors and barristers with expertise in the area of law on which the advice is sought. If member clubs are not satisfied with the advice they receive, they will have the same avenues of complaint open to them as they would for a paid service from practising solicitors and barristers.  For example, if a member club received advice that was negligent, this would be covered by various insurances.  If a member club is not satisfied with the service provided, the first step would be to write or speak to Julie Price (Priceja1@cardiff.ac.uk, telephone 029 2087 6510) who has main responsibility for this scheme. If matters cannot be resolved informally, then you will be invited to make your complaint to the Head of Law School at Cardiff University. Full details of complaints procedures will be included in documentation sent to clubs seeking advice.  The Law School will notify the WRU if any complaints are received, and will work with the WRU to resolve any issues.

Can a member club ask for advice on more than one issue, and on more than one occasion?

There is no limit on the number of separate requests a member club can make, although resources may need to be considered if the number of member clubs utilising this scheme is above expectations.

Is the advice given confidential?

Yes. The students involved in this scheme will sign confidentiality contracts and the usual client confidentiality rules for solicitors and barristers will apply.  An outline of a member club’s query and any advice given will only be mentioned in the legal update publication that accompanies the scheme if a member club expressly agrees in writing to this.

Can a member club get legal advice by phone?

Unfortunately not. Enquiries can be made by phone (as well as by email or letter), but no telephone advice will be given by Cardiff University’s Law School under any circumstances. All telephone queries will be verified by letter, and all advice given will be in writing within agreed timescales.

Can a member club make a query in Welsh and ask for advice in Welsh?

Yes. A number of the students involved in this scheme are Welsh speakers and will do their best to offer the full service in Welsh, by email or letter.  However, it cannot be guaranteed that telephone calls can be taken in Welsh.

What information will be needed from member clubs?

After an initial enquiry is received, the students will assess what other information they will need and will write to confirm this. If they need to see any documentation they will write to ask a member club for it.

How can member clubs access the free legal advice scheme?

This can be done in one of three ways:

By email: queries can be sent to intouch@cardiff.ac.uk (in English) or camsefyll@caerdydd.ac.uk (in Welsh).

By telephone: 029 2087 6705. This is the Law School’s main switchboard. It is operated on most working days between 9am and 5pm. Calls are likely to be taken by a Law School general receptionist.  Enquirers should ask to speak to a member of the WRU/Law School Pro Bono team and the call will be transferred. If a team member is not immediately available, the caller’s name and number will be taken and it will be arranged for someone to return the call as soon as is practicable.

Please note: Out of normal office hours, the phone line is answered by Cardiff University’s Security Services, who will not be able to take any messages.

By letter: queries can be sent to WRU/Cardiff Law School Pro Bono Team, Cardiff Law School, Museum Avenue, Cardiff CF10 3AX.

What happens after a member club phones, emails, or writes with a query?

One of this scheme’s team members may telephone to confirm some points if additional minor information is needed. They will aim to do this within 2 working days of receiving your query.

If any substantial further information is required or if they have all the initial information they need, they will aim to write to the club’s Honorary Secretary within 5 working days of receiving the member club’s query. The letter will contain this scheme’s standard terms and conditions and the member club will be asked to sign and return a copy. The letter will also contain a summary of the member club’s enquiry, with an invitation to correct this or give any further information needed.

How will member clubs know who to contact?

The initial letters to member clubs will contain “client care” details:  of what the club can expect from this scheme within what timescales and details of who to contact with any problems or issues about the service. The initial letters will also state the names of the student team allocated to the query and the barrister or solicitor allocated to supervise the advice.

The students will aim to provide a letter of substantive advice within 21 working days of receiving the query. This may not be possible on all occasions, and where it is anticipated that more time will be needed, member clubs will be kept fully informed.

How will the Welsh Rugby Union know if member clubs are happy with the service provided?

This is a new scheme for all concerned and Cardiff University’s Law School are keen to monitor requests for legal advice, and how member clubs view the service provided. To achieve this, a client satisfaction questionnaire will be sent to all member clubs after advice has been provided, so that feedback may be received.

General Note

This is Version 1 of our Questions and Answers Information sheet.  We will regularly review our policies and practices and adapt these as necessary to reflect any changing needs and priorities as the scheme embeds, evolves and develops.