On Wednesday 8th June we welcomed the Scottish Universities Law Clinic Network to GCU for the 2016 SULCN Summer Workshop. As well as advisors from the Law Clinic at GCU there were representatives from the Aberdeen Law Project, The Free Legal Advice Centre at Edinburgh University, The Edinburgh Napier University Law Clinic, Robert Gordon University Law Clinic and the University of Strathclyde Law Clinic. We were also joined by Arlene McDaid, the founder of the Scottish Chapter of the Legal Hackers movement and Kapil Summan of Scottish Legal News.
Attendees had the choice of two workshops to choose from to start the afternoon, one run by Donald Nicholson OBE and the second by Rob Marrs, Head of Education at the Law Society of Scotland.
Donald discussed his soon to be published paper, ‘”Our Roots Began in (South) Africa”: Modelling Law Clinics to Maximise Social Justice Ends’. Many aspects of Law Clinics were discussed during the session such as the need for balancing the social justice aims of clinics with the educational focus on the participation of the student volunteers. Those in Donald’s session were split in to groups and asked to design their ideal Law Clinic and design a pitch to secure funding for this. It had participants debating whether there should be a focus on one aspect of pro bono work or whether a balancing act should be struck between multiple aspects and which was the best approach for maximising community impact. The impact clinics can have was also considered through both remedial and educational approaches. The remedial work done by Law Clinics after something has happened to a client is vitally important but just as important is the educational work done to make people more aware of the law, how it works and what their rights are. One of the best ways this can be done is through Street Law.
Street Law was the focus of the session delivered by Rob Marrs. Rob took the participants through one of the highly interactive sessions used in schools around the world based on the case of Michael Morton, a man sentenced to life in prison for the murder of his wife. Rob went through the evidence used in the case piece by piece, at each stage asking the participants whether that piece made them think guilty or not guilty before revealing the fascinating true story. The session, like all good street law lessons, makes the students really think about the law and improve their understanding of it’s principals and values while also encouraging the development of other skills such as critical thinking and forming logical, well presented arguments.
The workshops were followed by a plenary session at which general SULCN business was discussed and this page will be updated with the minutes of that meeting when they become available. The SULCN meeting began with the election of Malcolm Combe to the newly created post of Chairperson and this was confirmed unanimously. Malcolm has been a driving force behind SULCN since it’s inception and this is now being officially recognised. After a recap of Donald’s session for those who had been in Rob’s and vice verse future SULCN activity was discussed. The next event will be in September with the date and venue to be confirmed shortly and it was decided that GCU will host the 2017 SULCN Conference next June. This will be an excellent opportunity for us to showcase our new campus and welcome Scotland’s other law schools and members of the legal profession to GCU to discuss how Access to Justice can be achieved through pro bono services. GCU, whose motto is, ‘for the common good’ is an ideal venue for such a conference.
Finally, we heard from Arlene McDaid who has helped to organise an upcoming Legal Hackathon event in Glasgow, info for which can be found here. This event combines people from the legal sector with developers in order to come up with innovative ideas which can be used to make legal services easier to access for those who need to.
Our thanks go to everyone who attended, particularly Donald and Rob for their excellent workshops which have given the participants lots of fresh ideas for how to improve upon the already excellent work done by the organisations in SULCN.
We are already looking forward to hosting next years SULCN Conference but the following info should keep Access to Justice fans going until the next SULCN gathering.
Donald’s paper has now been published and is available from the International Journal of Clinical Legal Education.
Orla Drummond and Gráinne McKeever of the Ulster University Law Clinic published a paper entitled Access to Justice through University Law Clinics in October last year which is available here.
And finally, our new chair, Malcolm, has complied a Storify of the SULCN 2016 Summer Workshop.
The minutes from the SULCN meeting held at the end of the workshop can be downloaded here – SULCN Minutes – 8th June 2016