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
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:
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!)
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.
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.
Last year marked a huge step in gender equality; one hundred years since women were given the vote in British parliamentary elections. This year we are celebrating another landmark moment. It is one hundred years since women entered the legal profession. The Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919 allowed women in the UK to become solicitors, advocates and to sit on a jury.
This anniversary is particularly important to the West of Scotland as the first woman to practice law after the introduction of the act was a University of Glasgow graduate. Madge Anderson, born and raised in Glasgow, gained her LLB in 1919 upon the changes made by the act. GCU Law Clinic have chosen Madge Anderson as our first ‘Woman in Law Wednesday’, a series we will be running on our Instagram throughout the project (@gculawclinic). We will be inviting suggestions for who should be our ‘Women in Law Wednesday’ each week, so head over to our Instagram to let us know.
In order to mark this important occasion, the GCU law clinic will be starting a “Women in Law” project. This project will feature interviews from influential women in the Scottish Legal Profession, as well as informative talks, blog posts and social media posts. These will be used to highlight the successes, and struggles, of women within the Legal Profession. The project will be running from now until March 2020, in the run up to International Women’s Day. We hope to use this project to provide information about the female journey into the legal profession and hopefully use this information to inspire a new generation of female law students.
Registration is now open for the SULCN Conference 2017 which will take place at GCU on Wednesday 7 June 2017. All the info you need can be found via the SULCN 2017 tab at the top of this page and registration is via Eventbrite.
Free to attend though there is a £5 charge for lunch and refreshments,
After the success of the GCU Law Clinic’s first speed networking event in March 2016, we were pleased to welcome representatives from some of Scotland’s leading firms and organisations to GCU once again for a second speed networking evening with our LLB in April 2017. This evening was an excellent opportunity for our students to network with professionals from:
Anderson Strathern; Ashurst; Brodies; Beltrami & Co; BLM; BTO; Cloch Solicitors; Eden Scott Recruitment; Ellis Whittam; Hymans Robertson; Katani & Co; Kerr Brown; KPMG; Latta Law; Leslie Wolfson; Livingstone Brown; MacRoberts; Paul Hannah Solicitors; Peacock Johnston; Shepherd and Wedderburn; SYLA; Thompsons and Whyte & Mackay.
Many of the representatives of these organisations are GCU alumni and are now employers of GCU Law graduates. Our students were extremely grateful to all our guests who gave up their evening to speak about their careers in law and the many, various opportunities available to students studying law
There was a variety of guests differing in both the sectors they work in and the roles they perform. This unique opportunity to hear from experienced solicitors and trainees about their experiences in the profession, securing jobs within it and lessons they learned along the way was invaluable for all our students, particularly those about to embark upon the same journey. We were fortunate to have representatives from companies such as KPMG and Ashurst to give our students an insight into the varying career paths you can go down when equipped with a law degree.
Since it was very effective last year, the evening was once again styled as a ‘Speed Networking Evening’, using a speed dating format to ensure that all of our students had the chance to speak to each of the guests. Between 6pm and 8pm, a buzzer would ring after each 5-minute period, signalling to the students to move on to the next table. Both the guests and the students were impressed with the high turnout, and often they were so engaged in conversation that they would run over 5 minutes. Our students were extremely grateful to all the guests for giving up their time to come along, especially as many travelled in straight from work, some even coming from Edinburgh to attend our event to help inform and inspire the next generation of the legal profession in Scotland.
Being able to have this interaction in a one to one conversation was a fantastic opportunity for our students to allow them to gain information of specific interest to them. Our Academic Director of the Law Clinic, Claire McFadzean, was delighted by the turnout of employers, GCU graduates and students. “There is a real focus at GCU on the employability skills of our students. This is a key focus in the Law Clinic and on the modules ‘Skills for Legal Employment’ and ‘Professional Links’. It is vitally important in this competitive legal market that our students have well developed skills in client care, interviewing, negotiating and legal letter writing. This networking event has allowed our law students to discuss their skill set and experience with professionals in the industry and allowed them to leave with greater knowledge on how to best move forward in developing and improving their CV.”
Among the guests from the prestigious firms and organisations were a large number of GCU graduates whom we were delighted to welcome back. Seeing what they have gone on to achieve in their careers was fantastic for our current students to give them a real sense of what is possible for them. Their success speaks volumes about the LLB at GCU, as does the fact that these former students were willing to return and spend the evening giving back to the current law students. One of these graduates was Gregg Scott, the GCU Law Clinic’s first ever student director, who came as a representative of Ashurt and their new Legal Analyst role, an alternative to practicing in the legal profession. Another was last year’s student director, Ian Laing, who came as the ‘Emeritus Director’. At last year’s networking event, Ian said, “I would be keen to come back and take part in this event in future once I have begun my own career,” and we were very grateful that he did.
Our students found the evening both thought provoking and insightful having been able to make connections with people in a variety of different areas of law. Some students were offered summer internships on the night and a handful of other students were encouraged by some of the large commercial firms to send them their CV’s for consideration for summer placements, proving this annual event to be a very valuable and successful night for our students and their experience and progression in their legal careers.
We would like to extend our thanks and gratitude to all invited guests who attended what is now our annual GCU Law Clinic Speed Networking Evening. Thanks must also go to our students and lecturers who helped with the organisation of the evening and attended. We hope to see many of you again next year!
From the 29th of November to the 1st of December, Glasgow was fortunate enough to host the mock court competition! We at the Law Clinic were fortunate to be involved in lending our services to clerk for some current Sheriffs, in a welcome break from our typical studies.
Primary schools from Glasgow and the West descended on the Saltmarket as soon as regular court business had concluded in the matter of Talk ‘n’ Text v Telfor. Donning homemade wigs and gowns (which frankly put the real ones to shame…), some of the legal professions future leading lights took their places in courtrooms, and set to work for their respective clients.
Leading evidence from their witnesses, the sides did battle over whether or not a contract was formed; with some interesting results – the same set of facts in separate courtrooms often produced different results! This was only a testament to the ability of the pupils involved. Clerking for Sheriff Miller, our Outreach Manager Rachel Campbell said:
“Some of the skill shown were extraordinary. The productions were well organised and the lawyers questioned their witnesses with a clear plan and considerable confidence. I only wish I was that good in primary school.”
Assistant Outreach Manager Ross Wilson, clerking for Sheriff Murphy QC, also added:
“I’ve been lucky enough to witness some of the top advocates in Scotland cross-examine witnesses, from Donald Findlay QC to Gordon Jackson QC. The pupils would have given them a run for their money – I felt uncomfortable sitting outside the witness box.”
Also involved was our Senior Operations Manager David Scott, who commented:
“I only wish I had the confidence to stand up in the infamous North Courtroom of the High Court and lead evidence in front of a Sheriff at that age. The pupils were a credit to themselves, their schools and their communities. I hope to work with them someday, although certainly not in opposition.”
As a team, we had a great time assisting with the project. It shows pupils from a very young age that courts aren’t just for criminals, but for everyone. It also helped them too see that the courts aren’t so terrifying, the Sheriffs were kind and understanding, and this showed in the confidence displayed by the pupils. As an aside, our volunteers benefitted from seeing behind the scenes of a court and to network with some of the most experienced jurists in the country.
On Monday 10th October, a group of our volunteers took part in the Glasgow Legal Walk to help raise funds and awareness of Access to Justice.
Being an organisation which provides free legal advice; we completely understood the importance and need to help raise money to further develop this area. Over the past few years there has been a reduction in local authority and government funding being distributed to aid legal organisations, such as our own, which help those struggling within our communities. The contributions raised from everyone taking part are going to help fund this gap.
The walk was 10K in length and had a fun photo challenge to get the creativity flowing, where you had to find locations throughout the walk which fit the caption. We met with Sheriff Turnbull, as well as other law firms and academics who were participating. The walk began at the Glasgow High Court at 5:30pm and followed on through Glasgow Green, around the South Side and finishing off at Bar Home, where all participants were welcomed in for a much needed drink at the end.
Overall, the night was a fabulous opportunity to raise money for a good cause, interact with similar people in the field and have a nice walk in the fresh autumnal air!
The total raised by all participating was £1,163.49.
Our Student Director, Ian Laing, looks back on a successful year for the Law Clinic
As we approach the end of our second full year in operation we have dealt with over one hundred clients so far and have managed to either win or save those clients £8,600 in that time. We are continuously recruiting and training new volunteers enabling us to deal with a higher volume of cases going forward and this can only be a good thing for both our students who are able to put into practice what they are learning and for the Greater Glasgow Community. The numerous enquiries we deal with shows that the purpose we were established for, providing legal advice to those who do not qualify for legal aid and cannot afford a solicitor, is an endeavour which is necessary and allows people who have no other means, to access justice.
Our Office Manager, Catherine Black, has been pleased with improvements made this year in involving students across the LLB. She said, “Volunteer engagement throughout the year groups of the LLB has been a big part of Clinic agenda since its inception. We have placed a focus on the benefits of volunteering in the clinic early in one’s university career and the valuable skills and qualities that can be refined by volunteering – and ultimately transferred to the work place. As a result, we have seen like-minded volunteers from years one to four who are interested in both helping the community and supplementing their C.V. for prospective employers. This is something that will continue to be a focus of the Clinic in the future.”
The opportunities provided by the Law Clinic for putting these skills into practice were highlighted this year as one of our cases reached court for the first time. The first two students with the chance to see this through have been myself and our Media Manager, Ryan Bell. The court system can be intimidating to people who have no experience of it and our clients require representatives who are able to present their case in the most effective way. Despite the initial nerves, the advice and preparation we received from our supervising solicitors and the academics in the GCU Law department proved invaluable and we were able to achieve the result our client wanted. Ryan and I both had the opportunity to speak on behalf of the client in court across a number of visits from 7th January to 3rd May this year until we eventually won following a two-day proof. The opportunity to address a Sheriff in a real case, in front of an audience, which included experienced solicitors, present our argument utilising evidence we had compiled and question witnesses on the stand to both bolster our own argument and poke holes in that put forward by the defender is something the vast majority of law students don’t get to do.
Ryan spoke of the sense of accomplishment following the lengthy court proceedings. “A lot of preparation went in to constructing our case and balancing the work required for this with our coursework mimics the full plate you’re going to have once you start working in the legal profession. It shows that volunteering with the clinic is a fantastic way to get an early taste of the real world outside of the safety net of university. Thinking on your feet when the Sheriff asks a question you hadn’t anticipated and successfully dealing with it was a good feeling as you are acutely aware that your ability to do so would impact on a client who had put his hope and faith solely on your shoulders.”
Helping a client navigate an unfamiliar and intimidating legal system is exactly what the Law Clinic was set up to do. One aspect of this case which was particularly pleasing is that it was referred to the Law Clinic by Ryan Watson, part of our founding management team who is now undertaking his traineeship with Livingstone Brown, the second largest legal aid firm in Scotland over the last year. Recognising that a claim of £3,700 would, even in a successful case, be offset by the substantial costs of instructing solicitors he referred the client to the Law Clinic. Building a network of partners within the legal community is something we are very keen to do and we are incredibly grateful to Ryan that he has retained his interest in the Law Clinic now that he has embarked upon his career. As more students gain experience via the Law Clinic I hope they will retain involvement and support our growth as they continue in their careers.
Our commitment to facilitating and improving Access to Justice was asserted by our Operations Manager, Patricia Taylor when she spoke at the beginning of March as part of a panel discussing Article Ten of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – ‘Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal’. Looking back on the discussion Patricia said,
“The work of The Law Clinic aids in accessing justice for our clients, because the clients who we see at the Law Clinic do not qualify for legal aid and cannot afford professional legal advice. Our work is crucial for those whose problems are of such small monetary value that hiring a solicitor is either impractical or impossible.
One of the points which I wanted to highlight was that although the legal profession may regard certain illustrations of accessing justice to be slight (for example, as mentioned above, where the monetary value at stake is small) for our clients, the issue is incredibly important.
Not only does the Law Clinic at GCU facilitate access to justice through its work, but the service is an embodiment of accessing justice in itself. The presence of any law clinic is testimony to that fact, as it is borne from the requirement of satisfying unmet legal need. The role of the state in providing access to justice in the UK has undergone considerable change in the last thirty years; moving from a publicly funded legal aid system that was regarded as one of the most generous in the world, to a rationalised provision that has seen significant reductions to both the scope of work that comes within legal aid schemes and the remuneration available to cover it, and that, as Law Clinics seek to fill that void, their presence and the service provided is an access to justice.
Although being a part of the law clinic has certainly heightened my involvement with the department’s faculty and activities, and strengthened my legal knowledge and practical skills, my experience goes much deeper than that. I think it is fair to say that without the presence of our law clinic, some of our clients would have watched the life-line of their cases plateau, alongside experiencing the hope of achieving justice fade; highlighting just how imperative a service such as ours is in providing access to justice, especially to those who may have no other alternative. A lack of resource or at times even the governing legislation may impinge upon progress, and it is often necessary to look past the substantive law – to the more humanitarian angle of the case – in order to move forward.
Facilitated by GCU Lecturer and Human Rights blogger, Andrew Tickell, alongside two other fantastic speakers, the session was informative and somewhat moving – alive with questions and comments about The Law Clinic and how justice may arise from our work.”
Listening to Patricia speak passionately about the human element to the case which can often be overlooked by people within the profession who, through the nature of business, look at the financial element above others I agree wholeheartedly with her assertions that without Law Clinics and the services they offer, many people would have no hope of seeing their case go anywhere and so the services offered by pro bono organisations are vital.
Raising awareness of the pro bono services we offer has been a major focus of the law clinic this year and December saw the Law Clinic team spend a day on Buchanan Street advertising our services to the public at the busiest shopping time of the year. The Christmas period is one which will see people purchasing and returning a huge volume of items and changes to consumer law in 2015 meant that people might not be completely aware of their rights in this arena. It is also a time of year when people in vulnerable situations can feel overwhelmed so a pro bono resource like the Law Clinic can be a lifeline.
This was picked up by People Make Glasgow and highlighted in The Guardian which was great for all involved and especially for the profile of the Law Clinic.
Our efforts regularly extend beyond our client work and our Outreach team are the perfect example of this. We have undertaken numerous Street Law sessions with high school pupils from across Glasgow and beyond including sessions both out at high schools as part of their regular lessons and on campus at GCU with students who have expressed an interest in studying law at university.
Pupils who have taken part have been able to participate in sessions ranging from debates on ethics, discussions on human rights and the protections that are taken for granted in everyday life and recently we even took Street Law out to the Glasgow Gaelic school. Conducting a session on the laws which are taught to computer science students at the school necessitated us taking a back seat and handing over to their teacher, Mr Combe, to run the session in Gaelic but we are going back in August for further sessions and will hopefully take at least one Gaelic speaker with us. Our Outreach Manager, Rachel Campbell, who will continue in the role next year after putting in place a strong foundation before spending a semester studying in France spoke of the positive impact of our Outreach activities,
“The work of the Outreach team is significant in reaching out to the Greater Glasgow community and educating people of school age of their rights and the law in an interactive way which is relevant to their lives. The work we have done has a positive impact on those we interact and run sessions with as they may not be aware of these important issues otherwise. The work we do ties in perfectly with the ‘common good’ ideals of our university and it is heartening to see that in the feedback from our sessions all of the pupils rated the lessons as either good or excellent, hopefully we have inspired some of them to apply to study law at university level.”
2016 has seen the work of the Law Clinic recognised with nominations for a variety of awards. The most prominent of these was the Scott+Co Scottish Legal Awards in the Pro Bono Category. We didn’t win this year but to make it to the final four in the company of eventual winners, the University of Strathclyde Law Clinic, who have been running for the last 13 years, last year’s winners, multinational law firm DLA Piper and the RBS Legal team shows how far we have come in two years, with the awards ceremony taking place on 24th March, one week after our second anniversary on 17th March. We’ll hopefully be back in contention next year and bring home the trophy!
I was also honoured to be a finalist this year for the GCU Student of the Year Award in April. Again, no trophy but to make the final five in a university with thousands of students was humbling and although it was an individual award I wouldn’t have made the final five without the hard work put in by everyone who is involved with the Law Clinic. The GCU Student of the Year Award is given to someone who has made a contribution both to the university and the community and I could not have done anything to even be considered for this without the vehicle of the Law Clinic which is designed to make such a difference.. I have to thank everyone for that, it would have been an award shared by the whole team.
It was third time lucky during awards season however as in May our Academic Director, Claire McFadzean, was presented with the Excellence In Teaching Award for the Business School within the university by the GCU Students Association. This was in recognition of the opportunities Claire provides to all students who want to get involved with the Law Clinic and the fact she goes above and beyond with the help and guidance she provides to us.
The week of the Scottish Legal Awards in March also saw us welcome a large number of legal professionals, including many former GCU students back to the university to speak to our current LLB students and I managed to catch up with our former Student Director, Greg Scott, to find out what he was doing now and for some thoughts on his experience of the Law Clinic two years on. He said,
“Having held the inaugural Student Directorship at the GCU Law Clinic, I feel relatively well placed to provide some insight, and to issue a plea to students, as to the merits of volunteering at law clinics and pro bono ventures generally.
Too often, as a result of the archetypal university mentality, it becomes easy to focus solely upon academic merit. Consideration of the bigger picture however, should always be at the forefront of our minds. As law students, we typically don’t get offered many opportunities for vocational learning and the benefits that follow on from this are hard to put into words. At a basic level, the level of independent legal-based interaction with real people with real world problems is unparalleled and the work really, really matters which gives it a significant edge over anything else. From a development standpoint, countless soft skills are honed and tested in the almost perfect ‘training environment’, eventually seamlessly merging into those necessary for thriving in a professional setting.
Potential for a deeper involvement in the Clinic towards the latter years of the LLB opens up a whole other level of creative and professional development. Critically, the GCU Law Clinic is very much a living, breathing thing, and at all times reflects the values and efforts of the students running it. The opportunity to shape the Clinic based upon the needs of the people is one where you will struggle to experience anywhere else, and it is entirely the product of having a well-functioning, tight-knit law school (and particularly Claire McFadzean!).
The knowledge and experience gained from working at the Clinic has undoubtedly served me well in life post-LLB. Since leaving, I have studied on the International Law and Security LLM at the University of Glasgow, graduating with distinction in November of 2015. I have also been fortunate enough to secure employment with Ashurst as a Legal Analyst in their Glasgow office, where I have undertaken pro bono work for a number of our leading charities clients and have taken a more than active role in promoting the work of law clinics and helping to grow the Ashurst Glasgow community efforts, with the firm recently being confirmed as a lead sponsor of the Law Society of Scotland’s Street Law initiative.
Essentially, I’d just like to stress that the opportunity provided by the GCU Law Clinic is one not to be missed and it is very much what you make of it. What is should be viewed as, is the perfect platform for students to learn, develop and grow and students need to leave their own legacy, but in that process hopefully making concurrently a massive difference to the people who need it most, and to those whom the GCU Law Clinic was ultimately set up for, the common weal. “
The remainder of 2016 will see us launch a number of new ventures which will allow us to increase the number of clients that we are able to help. Holding the post of Student Director allows me to be involved in all aspects of the law clinic and I am able to see the hard work and enthusiasm of our team of volunteers on a daily basis. I have also been milking my 100% successful record in court for all it’s worth. Volunteering with the law clinic has allowed me to supplement my studies in a very practical way and put into practice what I am learning while helping people who fall into the category of unmet legal need – which against the current backdrop of significant cuts to legal aid is continuing to grow. I cannot phrase it any more eloquently than our inaugural Student Director, Greg, and would like to echo his thoughts. Studying at a university whose motto is ‘for the common weal’ and which aims to work towards the common good means we are well supported in our aims and expansion plans. Particularly, it is thanks to the supervision provided to us by our advisors, Sheridans Solicitors, which we are incredibly grateful for and especially the efforts of Claire McFadzean in establishing the Law Clinic and thanks to whom we are able to adopt a big picture approach to studying law and making a difference to those in society who need it most.
Even though I am leaving GCU I am proud to have been asked to continue working with the Law Clinic in an as yet untitled advisory role in which I hope to be joined by a number of Law Clinic graduates over the next few years and I am looking forward to the chance to carry on helping us go from strength to strength, especially our hosting of the Scottish Universities Law Clinic Network annual conference at GCU in June 2017. My successor, Rachel, has been heavily involved in the Law Clinic in the last twelve months and has a very good management team appointed alongside her so the expansion plans we have will continue apace. I would like to thank the whole team for their hard work this year and especially Claire for the opportunity to hold this post over the last year. As her Excellence in Teaching award shows, the students working in the Law Clinic will be well supported in their efforts.
Reflecting on the past year Claire said, “I am immensely proud of the achievements of the entire Law Clinic team during the last academic year. The motivation and drive of our LLB students has been truly amazing to witness. This article showcases some of the highlights from this year but I am all too aware that their individual and collective accomplishments go much further and deeper. Each day our law students demonstrate exceptional commitment and with their time and energy work incredibly hard in order to push forward with the work of the Law Clinic.
Ian Laing our Student Director has provided outstanding leadership this year and has led his team with enthusiasm and clear direction which has directly enabled the Law Clinic to become involved with new and interesting projects. He has now handed over the reins to Rachel Bond (4th year LLB student) and I am extremely confident she will carry on with the same drive and passion. I look forward to another productive year in which our LLB students demonstrate that they are true ambassadors of the University for the Common Good.”
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