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The new Free Legal Advice Centre - an alliance of five legal aid clinics - is one of the residents of the Amsterdam Law Hub. Project leader Veronic Sijstermans answers five questions about the Centre.

Free legal advice

What is the Free Legal Advice Centre?

“The Free Legal Advice Centre is an alliance of five legal aid clinics: Wetwinkel Amsterdam, Strafrechtswinkel Amsterdam (criminal law), Rechtswinkel Bijlmermeer, Juridisch Spreekuur Gedetineerden (for inmates) en Belastingwinkel Amsterdam (tax law). Anyone can approach us with questions involving consumer law, contracts, social security law (benefits), tenancy law, labour law, criminal law, administrative law, and tax law.”

How do you get free advice at the Free Legal Advice Centre?

“Individuals can submit their legal questions via an online form available at our website. The questions are then sorted depending on the type of question. Two of the clinics, the “Wetwinkel” and the tax law clinic, hold consulting hours at the Hub. The criminal law clinic and the Bijlermeer clinic hold walk-in consultations at different locations throughout the city. JSG visits inmates at penal institutions throughout the Netherlands. It helps its clients understand their situation, provides a point of reference for problem-solving and can even provide trial support.”

Who works at the legal advice centres?

“Mostly Bachelor’s and Master’s law students – the Free Legal Advice Centre is an initiative of the Amsterdam Law School. Students gain hands-on legal experience and make a contribution to legal access by providing free legal advice. Students work as volunteers, but starting next year, Master’s students can earn 6 ECTS if they do the work in combination with a course designed specifically for this purpose.”

Is the advice given by the Legal Advice Centre really “free”?

“Yes. Imagine you have just been fired and need to know your rights; we can give free advice that might help your case. A staffer takes a close look at the case and helps, for instance, with compiling documents or writing letters. Students can even go to court for you in cases that don’t require an attorney.”

What are some of the typical questions fielded by the law clinics?

“The legal advice centres collectively receive approximately one thousand legal queries annually, resulting in about a hundred court, municipal, and CBR procedures.  We get a lot of questions about landlord and tenancy law, benefits, dismissal proceedings, and traffic fines. The tax law centre mostly helps prepare tax returns.”