Homelessness in Scotland – GCU Law Clinic & Homeless Project Scotland

This Christmas, 50,000 people in Scotland will be classified as homeless by the Scottish Government. That is enough to fill Hampden Park, home of the Scotland National Team.

Child homelessness is also on the rise, with almost 3,000 more children experiencing homelessness in 2023 when compared to the start of the pandemic in March 2020. Overall, 9,595 children live in temporary accommodation and are classified as homeless.

This year, the GCU Law Clinic has teamed up with Homeless Project Scotland in an effort to raise awareness of the current housing crisis in Scotland and to help Scotland’s homeless through this difficult period. Volunteers at Homeless Project Scotland work tirelessly to provide support for Scotland’s homeless population, providing:

  • Daily soup kitchens
  • Deliveries of food, water, and other essential items
  • Emotional support for rough sleepers

 

 

 

 Homeless Project Scotland volunteers at the soup kitchen

At this time of year, it is especially vital to come together as a community to help rough sleepers get through the winter. 244 homeless individuals in Scotland died in 2022, with the harsh conditions of winter undoubtably contributing to this number.

Law Clinic Charity Collection

The GCU Law Clinic is holding a charity collection to help provide essentials to the homeless population in Glasgow. We are accepting the usual hats, scarves, and gloves, as well as toiletries, sanitary products, hot water bottles and any other items which may be of help to the homeless.

Any contribution would be massively appreciated by all at the Clinic, Homeless Project Scotland and most importantly, those who will receive this support.

Glasgow Caledonian University Law Journal for Law and the Common Good

The Journal consists of articles covering a broad range of legal areas. The aim is to create a diverse bank of legal research to demonstrate the work of our students in a way which simultaneously engages the university’s common good objectives. All eligible submissions are encouraged and appreciated, and special thanks is given for particularly impressive work.

Journal for Law and the Common Good

 

Gender Pay Gap

The gender pay gap is a problem within the majority of workplaces, and a remaining issue in the legal field. It is an issue which results in woman being disadvantaged based solely on their gender. It should be noted that this pay gap is extensive in its coverage, it is not based on solely annual incomes but also covers bonuses, which woman can receive much lower in comparison to men, this is exemplified in a report produced by the Law Society which provides that in 2020 the average gap between the value of men’s and women’s bonuses was 39.4%.1 As this has proven to be a significant issue affecting woman from being disadvantaged from annual pay all the way to bonuses being affected, there have been many proposals for change such as the Women in Law Pledge which was launched in 2019. This pledge supports woman receiving equality within the legal field and strives for change, including the gender pay gap and gender equality as a whole, which consists of 8 pledges which legal organisations can sign up to, one being “ensuring aspects of pay, reward and recognition of the senior leadership are linked to delivery against these gender equality targets as applicable”, legal organisations which sign up to these pledges, in turn ensure supporting woman in the profession and sets clear plans around reaching sufficient gender pay equality.2 Despite many actions to change this unjust pay gap, issues still remain within the legal profession.

 

Next 100 years and Gapsquare, a pay analytics company have provided new research about closing the gender pay gap in the legal profession, analysing hourly pay rates provided by law firms. They found that the legal sector has one of the largest gender pay gaps of any industry which is currently at 25.4%.3 This figure has remained pretty much the same since 2017 and women have represented more than half of all solicitors since this year also. This is concerning as additionally the majority of new entrants to the legal profession are in fact women, yet only a small proportion are making senior roles. It is clear that something needs to be done to tackle this issue as the survey found that 84% of women did not think they would see pay equality until the next generation or beyond. This is supplemented by Next 100 years and Gapsquares estimation that it will take 86 years to close the mean gender pay gap and 40.6 years to close the median. These figures show that the gender pay gap is real and seriously demotivating for women in law.

 

The current position with regards to the gender pay gap is still a big issue in our society. Studies suggest that there has been some improvement over the years in reducing the gap between the pay male and females receive, however this varies from year to year. Results from the office of national statistics show that the gender pay gap has reduced by a quarter on average between all employees in the last decade, however the results from 2022 show that among full-time employees there was an increase from 7.7% in 2021 to 8.3% in 2022.4 This proves that despite a steady decline, realistically there has not been a vast improvement to decrease this pay gap.

 

There are recommendations for reducing this gap which consist of women doing more negotiation in terms of their pay to achieve a higher salary however it is our opinion that this is placing the blame on women and using this as a reason to explain the gender pay gap. A more reasonable solution to the problem would be for managers and CEOs of these companies to recognise the seriousness of the issue and ensure that the gender pay gap is non-existent in their companies. If every workplace put an effort in to make a reduction to the pay gap it is likely the results of a reduction would be much more convincing of change taking place. This issue is one which has been around since the beginning of time and unfortunately does not show much proof of disappearing any time soon.

Written by Rebecca Kenney, Brooke Keane and Fiza Ali

An Analysis of COP26 One Year On

COP26 in Glasgow was a gathering of world leaders to promote the actions of improving climate change, from Nicola Sturgeon to Greta Thunberg, lots of plans were discussed. How well have these actions went in achieving their goal? This blog will highlight the good and the bad affects COP26 has had on climate change in conjunction with the active approaches law firms can take in contributing towards the COP26 objectives – as it is Pro Bono week and in the light of COP27 in Egypt this year. This will help people most affected by climate change stay informed to access justice.

Successes and Failures

The United Nations Convention on Climate Change gives COP26 as an annual conference a purpose. Mainly to adopt decisions which develop and implement the COP26 convention, the Kyoto Protocol, and the Paris Agreement. However, there were aims which were set out for COP26 specifically. The four main aims set out in COP26 in Glasgow were to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, keeping 1.5C degrees within reach – aimed to be done by switching to electricity powered cars, preventing the prominence of deforestation, and promoting the use of renewable energy sources while minimising fossil fuels.

Further to this, it was proposed to protect communities and natural habitats which ties in with the deforestation objective as a whole. COP26 raised the issue of being able to manage and make available £100 billion in finance to work towards these goals. The fourth aim was for countries to work together and finalise the Paris Rulebook – which guides countries on reporting emissions, timeline for reducing emissions in total, and rules set out for carbon markets.

Before looking at the failures of COP26, we should acknowledge the successes. For one, the COP26 pact is now 190 nations strong, according to COP26 President Alok Sharma. This coalition has pledged to “phase out coal power and end support for new coal power plants”, showing that the international community is most united in their efforts to prevent global warming. However, certain key players in the international community, such as Russia and China, were notably absent from the conference. According to Paul G. Harris writing for PLOS Climate, the latter produce over a quarter of all global emissions and intend to increase this until 2030, while the rest of the world’s nations are actively looking to decrease such emissions. Therefore, the efforts of these nations may not be enough in achieving the target of 1.5 degrees higher than pre-industrial levels.

A further failure has been identified by ethicist Julian Sheather, who attributes “global ‘blinkmanship’” as another failure of COP26. Every country wants the changes to occur and is fully aware of the consequences that will follow if action is not taken. However, no nation wants to be the first to introduce such painful measures which will alter their citizens way of life, as not to be labelled as “draconian” or “authoritarian”. COP26 should provide the nations with a way of making these necessary steps together as a unified front, however Sheather’s proposes “weakness of global governance” leads to infighting between nations that detracts from the larger fight; the one against global warming.

The Legal Profession and COP26

Additionally, the legal profession has been urged to adapt its practices to meet the COP26 aims. Whilst changes to environmental law at a statutory level will work as an accountability tool, the most effective changes will operate at a firm level.

One of the most important starting points is the adaptation of firm targets. Firms must take a proactive approach to implement new science-based targets to limit carbon emissions associated with their practice. This will not only contribute to further achieving the 1.5°C target but also shows active engagement at a ground level which should be adopted by all employees. Alongside this also comes the publication of said targets, and how the firm has implemented practical measures to meet their aims and operate on a more environmentally friendly platform. This again will not only work as an accountability measure but also allows firms themselves to see if their measures are working and how they can be adapted for improvement or to ensure they remain affective.

Promotion of climate change within the legal profession is also vital to further achieving COP26 aims. In light of pro bono week, this is particularly relevant as pro bono activities is one of the most effective, proactive approaches firms can take towards achieving this. By carrying out pro bono work, firms can ensure access to justice for those who are negatively affected by climate change at an affordable level. Additionally, engaging with current and prospective policy making will also help contribute towards upholding the human rights of those majorly affected by the issue. Overall, it is important to recognise this is not an ‘over-night fix’, approach whilst it will be gradual must be consistent and continually adapting if further improvement is ever to be achieved.

 

Written by: Holly Stokes, Fraser Scott, Paul Jay Cassidy, Patrick Goodfellow, Louis Gibson and Scott Gemmell

Employability – James Cox

James is currently a fourth year LLB student at GCU and, after completing a vacation scheme in summer 2022, James has secured a training contract at international commercial law firm CMS, commencing in August 2024. In this blog, James talks about his experience this summer.

 

Firstly, not everyone knows what they want to do with their LLB degree and that’s okay. You shouldn’t feel freaked out when people start mentioning grad jobs and training contracts.

This post is mainly to get first and second years thinking about the legal opportunities out there and give some insight into the recruitment process at big commercial law firms.

 

For me, I think I always really knew that I had a keen interest in commercial issues and business in general, so a career in commercial law was the best way to marry this together with my passion for the law. It’s not for everyone and you shouldn’t feel like you ought to be attracted to it just because people tell you “it’s where the real money is”.

 

This leads me on to my first key point; before you even start to think of applying for traineeships or internships, you must first get to grips with your personal motivations for pursuing the career path. These should be genuine and personal reasons, not just the standard clichés that grad recruiters will have heard a million times before.

 

After, in my experience, I think that you should research around 10 firms in depth, all the time being aware of your personal motivations and how a firm aligns with these. There are so many resources that you can use to do this out there such as Chambers Student, Legal Cheek and the firm websites. Additionally, don’t be afraid to reach out on LinkedIn (can’t believe I actually used that phrase!) to trainees at law firms to get some personal insight into the firm. You can use Law Fairs to do this too. I know it is quite daunting but I promise they are really just normal people and you won’t be the first or last to contact them about this. Plus, doing so gives you some insight that puts you ahead of so many other applicants.

 

This all does sound like a lot of work before you even get to writing an application. That’s why it is best to start as early as you can. For instance, at CMS the application window for the vacation scheme for the following Summer opens around the end of September and closes just before Christmas. I personally began my firm research around the start of August 2021 and submitted my various applications around early to late November – I promise I do actually have a life by the way!

 

This brings me on to one of the biggest things I learned during the application cycle; consistency compounds.  What do I mean by that? No one can spend all day every day working on applications – it is not sustainable when you have other commitments like your studies, part-time work and a social life to balance. A couple hours of work most days is actually better than spending three days straight sweating it with deadlines approaching. I know people like to say they work best under pressure (another application cliché!) but traineeships or vacation schemes are incredibly competitive so you need to give yourself the best chance to submit as good an application as you can – this starts with being organised and committed.

 

On the subject of competitiveness, it is inevitable that you will face rejections. To give you an idea, I applied for around nine schemes and got rejected from seven of them – some at much smaller firms than the one I ended up in, and one time I just never heard back either way! Don’t take it personally; it is a simple fact that way more people apply for these positions than there are spaces on them. However, you should leverage rejections to show the resilience and motivation you possess and always back yourself – someone has to get the spot, so why should it not be you?

 

Finally, I would like to stress the value of non-legal work experience. The only real experience I had, apart from a week with the Procurator Fiscal way back in fourth year of high school, was my part-time job. In my experience this can be just as, if not more, valuable than a week of informal experience here or there doing admin work. Beyond having to manage your time and juggle different commitments, part-time work exposes you to the realities of the working world including managing relationships, working in a team and possibly being a leader of some description. So don’t think it’s not that relevant, it really can be if you frame it in the right way.

 

So good luck! Here’s some resources I found useful:

  • Aspiring Solicitors
    • Coaching programmes, mentoring schemes, virtual events, financial support from their foundation

And all of the below are great for developing commercial awareness:

  • Watson’s Daily Podcast
  • FT daily newsletters (use the university library for free subscription)
  • The Corporate Law Academy newsletter
  • Commercial Law Academy Newsletter
  • Roll on Friday (try to avoid the forums full of unhappy lawyers looking for somewhere to vent!)

 

James Cox. LLB4, Glasgow Caledonian University

 

If you would like to speak to James about his experiences, he is happy for you to contact him JCOX202@caledonian.ac.uk

British Sign Language, Ananda Bruce

At the start of the academic year 2021/22, the GCU Law Clinic volunteers started learning British Sign Language(BSL) to make our services more accessible.

Claire McFadzean, Academic Director of the Clinic, had always planned on volunteers being able to sign within the clinic. During the pandemic, the Law Clinic have moved their services online. The online BSL training course offered by British Sign meant our students could participate from home, making the Clinic more inclusive. Claire and the then student director Lucy Mackay, pushed for the volunteers to take advantage of this opportunity.

Learning BSL was not only fun and engaging but a great life skill to have. The videos were really easy to understand and follow and there were plenty of resources provided in the course. Students have started to create short videos signing a message about the clinic. Ananda, Taylor and Magda are some of the students who have completed the course and their videos are shown below.

We know we have a lot to learn and we are really keen to keep getting better. Everyone deserves access to justice, and we hope this project contributes to that.

Dr Jane Goodall

Jane Goodall is 87 years old and she was born on the 3rd April 1934 in London.

She is an English primatologist and anthropologist and she is best known for her 60-year study of social and family interactions of wild chimpanzees. She is the world`s best-known living naturalist and founder of the Jane Goodall Institute.

In April 2002 she was named a United Nations Messenger of Peace and she is also an honorary member of the World Future Council.

Jane was fascinated with animal behaviour in her early childhood and she dreamed of travelling to Africa to observe exotic animals in their natural habitats.

Through Jane`s research, it is believed that she has developed a breakthrough approach to species conversation that improves the lives of people, animals and the environment by highlighting how they are all connected to each other.

One important aspect of Jane`s career is to show others why protecting the natural environment and species matter to people and the planet.

During the COP26 Jane was announced to be the COP26 Advocate, and during this time she drew the world`s attention to the importance of tackling climate change and she also raised awareness about the importance of climate action globally.

Before COP26 started Jane appeared on a Twitter video in which she said:

“We have come to a turning point in our relationship with the natural world. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that we must change our ways. In my 87 years, I have seen the ice melting in Greenland and the glaciers vanishing on Mount Kilimanjaro and around the world. Forests are disappearing – deforestation means we are losing one of the lungs of the world. In 100 days, it is crucial that world leaders come together at COP26 to take urgent action to protect our planet.”

A global study from the World Economic Forum was conducted before COP26 started and it found that most people do not feel their countries are prepared to tackle climate change. However, in response to this study Jane reminded us all that hope can be a way out of our darkest times she said:

 “Hope is rather like being in a very dark tunnel with many obstacles that have to be climbed on, and it seems impossible to get to the other end, where there’s a speck of light, that hope. Hope can’t happen unless we take action and fight to get there. Once in place, hope can propel us to do more and even inspire others to join in. It’s an upward spiral.”

Jane pushes for progress against the climate emergency in 4 different ways. Firstly, she talks with people and not at them as discussing problems by arguing at people makes it harder for the other person to understand your point of view and therefore it becomes harder for them to take your side. Secondly, she connects with compassion, Jane does not point fingers at people instead she finds a connection point between herself and the other person, such as an animal or a hobby, and she takes a few minutes talking about these topics to build a bridge between herself and the other person`s different ideas.

Thirdly, she employs stories which means that through a story she begins to connect with other people and these stories often reach people`s hearts. This is good because it is often harder to bind with someone over statistics as change must come from within. Last but not least she acts locally, rather than jumping straight for world change she finds issues within a community and seeks to change them first. Then slowly these little differences start to show great impacts on the wider community and the world as a whole.

Influential Environmentalist – Greta Thunberg

Greta Thunberg is an 18-year-old environmental activist from Sweden. She is one of the youngest activists in the world, being only 16 when she received the Times’s Person of the Year award. Thunberg’s school strikes for climate change became well-known around the world, with many pupils from across the globe taking part in these to stand with her in her campaign. By December 2018, over 20,000 students in countries such as the UK and Japan joined her in skipping school to protest. She missed around 3 weeks of school at the start of her striking until she got the attention of the Swedish Parliament. This helped her in the start of the global movement which she has now created, called Fridays For Future (FFF). This involved encouraging school pupils to skip school on a Friday and protest for climate change. The movement became well-known and was given a lot of publicity which brought it to the attention of world leaders.

 

In one of her most famous speeches at a UN climate conference in New York Thunberg told world leaders “You all come to us young people for hope. How dare you? You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words,”. This was only the beginning of speeches Thunberg would go on to make. Greta does not fly due to how much this can affect the climate, and instead she often takes very long journeys by train or boat. For the climate conference in New York, Greta took a two-week long zero-emission yacht across the Atlantic Ocean. This is an example of her incredible commitment to making a change to the climate problem currently faced around the world.

 

The book ‘No One Is Too Small To Make A Difference’ contains all of Greta’s speeches, with proceeds being donated to charity. As well as this, a documentary about her was released in 2020. Recently, Thunberg visited Glasgow during the Cop26 climate change conference which took place over a 2-week period. She took part in protests across Glasgow and encouraged so many people of all ages to get involved in the protests to campaign for changes to be made. After Cop26 Greta criticised the agreement which had been struck, stating it was very vague and contained too many loopholes. She emphasised that the climate crisis is about the time limit faced where changes need to be made before it is too late.

 

Thunberg continues to influence people, particularly the younger generations, around the world to get involved in climate change campaigning and protesting in order to try and help for changes to be made.

LawScot COP26 Conference

On Friday 29th October the Law Society of Scotland COP26 Conference was held in the EICC. The event sought to cover the modern lawyer’s role in tackling the impact of climate change. A range of speakers were invited to attend. Included were former President of Ireland Mary Robinson, Dean of the Faculty of Advocates Roddy Dunlop QC and GCU’s own Dr. Angela O’Hagan.

 

In light of COP26 which is currently well underway in Glasgow (see GCU Law Clinic social media for more info), a sense of urgency could be felt. Law-making, legal interventions and litigation in the climate crisis were discussed at length. This demonstrated the breadth of influence lawyers have on environmental policy.

One session of particular interest to me was a discussion on how tackling climate change can be part of legal education. Incorporating discussion of the climate crisis into the legal curriculum could work to ensure the next generation of lawyers is better prepared for the climate emergency, embodying the theme of proactive change underlying the event.

It would be easy to be overwhelmed by the seriousness of the subject matter. For Glaswegians, the passion of demonstrators has been particularly visible over the last few weeks. The event didn’t shy away from the crisis, but did focus on what legal professionals can proactively do, which gave a hopeful note to proceedings. It was an honour to be invited (thanks Seonaid!). I very much look forward to continuing to focus on this important topic within the GCU Law Clinic, thinking about what lawyers and law students can do to tackle the crisis. I will look to my future legal career enlightened by the knowledge imparted by the inspiring individuals who took the time to share their ideas.

Emily Ward, Project Manager @GCULawClinic

Twitter @wxrec

The GLASS Network – Roundtable Event: The New Normal of Inclusion

Rountable Event: New Normal of Inclusion – Thursday 3rd December

There can be no doubt by now that 2020 has changed the way we communicate, the way we relate, and the way we work together, perhaps even long-term. With that in mind, The Glass Network is set to explore how furthering LGBTQ+ inclusion in the legal profession can work under these new and evolving circumstances – and you can get involved in the discussion.

Since 2015, The Glass Network has supported local LGBTQ+ communities and businesses in Scotland’s legal profession, promoting an understanding of LGBTQ+ issues, and, in particular, equality and inclusion at work. To support that movement towards greater and more robust equity, the network launched The Glass Charter in 2019, a free framework for firms and organisations that commits them to meeting the charter’s five principles in ways that suit their individual businesses:

  1. Inclusive recruitment – recruit to create a diverse workforce
  2. Local action – participate in activities and policies that promote LGBTQ+ equality and diversity
  3. Senior buy-in – improve equality and diversity at senior professional levels
  4. Allied commitment – share methods of increasing equality and diversity
  5. Innovative intersectionality – implement LGBT+ inclusion initiatives with policies in support of other protected characteristics

‘Ally Firms’, as the charter identifies them, are encouraged to implement these principles in conversation with their LGBTQ+ employees and members, along with the Glass Network itself. where an Ally Firm may fall short of its aims for the year, the network sees that as an opportunity to talk about where the challenges lay and how better to approach them. You can find much more information on The Glass Charter here [http://theglassnetworksco.squarespace.com/charter], including details of how firms can adopt the charter.

If you would like to hear more about the Glass Network from founder, Drew McCusker, listen to our podcast episode with Drew:

Apple podcasts: https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/gcu-law-podcast/id1529457209

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/show/0pieK5wkIzMJh6lqOPws13?si=f3rGKyW6QmeU9gy3Gok9Zg

Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/user-220960623

For a chance to get involved yourself, though, The New Normal of Inclusion roundtable event, on the evening of Thu 3 Dec, will bring legal professionals and students together to discuss how firms can support LGBTQ+ inclusion going forward. Participants of all sexual orientations and gender identities working in the legal profession are welcome to attend, and to add their voices, opinions and experiences via The Glass Network’s online Future Form. [https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSekLtUPBUQ0zjQSqZ7HXTtqs_WvqCxXTOa9eihQKmNbdBjOuA/viewform]

To attend The New Normal of Inclusion, please email theglassnetworksco@gmail.com

The GCU Law Clinic is proud to support The Glass Network. For more information on the network and their initiatives, visit theglassnetworksco.squarespace.com

By Andi Denny, Law Clinic Volunteer