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!
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.”
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.
In March the Law Clinic team were pleased to welcome representatives from some of Scotland’s leading firms and organisations to GCU for a networking evening with our LLB students. The evening was a fantastic opportunity for them to speak to professionals from:
Ashurst; Brodies; BTO; CMS; COPFS; Katani & Co; Livingstone Brown; MacRoberts; McCluskey Browne; McLean & Stewart; North Ayrshire Council; North Lanarkshire Council; Peacock Johnston; SCRA; SYLA and Whyte & Mackay.
Most of the organisations represented are now employers of GCU Law graduates and our students were extremely grateful to all our guests who gave up their evening to speak about their careers in law and the many, varied opportunities open to students studying law.
There was a real mix among the guests in both the sectors they worked in and the roles they perform. Being able to hear from experienced solicitors and trainees about their experiences in the profession, securing jobs within it and the lessons they learned during the job hunt was invaluable for our students about to embark on the same journey. We were also fortunate to have HR Partners join us and their tips on the application and interview process as well as what specific attributes their firms look for were very well received! Being able to have this interaction in a one to one conversation rather than across a stall at a packed careers fayre was a fantastic opportunity for the students. Our Academic Director 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.
As well as welcoming guests from so many prestigious firms and organisations we were very happy to welcome back among them a large number of GCU graduates. Seeing what they have gone on to achieve in their careers was fantastic for our current students and gave them a real sense of what is possible for them. Seeing how well they are doing 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 at GCU, Indeed, Hazel Langan, one of our LLB graduates is now a Partner at McLean & Stewart.
The broad range of career paths showcased on the night included both traditional careers in law and roles that students may not initially have considered when beginning their legal education. Guests on the night came from a wide variety of roles within the profession including among others, a Partner in a high street firm, a Procurator Fiscal and in-house solicitors with local authorities and drinks giant Whyte & Mackay. New legal careers such as the Legal Technologist role pioneered by Ashurst were highlighted along with the opportunities afforded by this role such as working abroad in one of their many international offices. Representatives were also present from the Scottish Young Lawyers Association, membership of which provides many benefits to those beginning their legal careers, even at the university stage. Our Student Director Ian Laing spoke of the benefits of membership of SYLA and said, “At the beginning of May I was able to attend a talk given by a former lawyer of both FIFA and FC Barcelona free of charge courtesy of SYLA.” For students looking to further their studies there were guests who have embarked upon Masters degrees and Doctorates in law to talk about their experiences in academia beyond the LLB.
The night was styled as a ‘Speed Networking Evening’ and used a speed dating format to make sure that all of our students got the chance to speak to each of the guests. Every five minutes a bell would ring and the students would move on to the next table. The event ended up running over time with people slow to move on when the bell rang but this was due to everyone enjoying the evening and nobody was in a rush to wrap it up at the end. This showed how much of a success the event was from the point of view of the students who all thoroughly enjoyed it and also highlighted how generous the guests were with their time. They had all come from work, some from Edinburgh and Dunblane, to the event yet nobody was desperate to leave. We are incredibly grateful to all the guests who joined us and helped to inform and inspire the next generation of the legal profession in Scotland.
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. Student Director Ian and Media Manager Ryan Bell contrasted the evening with other events they have attended with Ryan saying, “I really enjoyed the format. It was something very different to the usual networking events where there can be awkward ends to conversations as you run out of things to say. The five minutes was perfect and left you with things to go back and speak to people about afterwards.” Ian commented, “Ryan and I recently attended an event where we had been invited as finalists in the Scottish Legal Awards. We saw that circles quickly formed in the room and it didn’t give you a chance to speak to everyone so we wanted to do something which would give the students this opportunity. Speaking to my fellow students we would all be keen to come back and take part in this event in the future once we have begun our own careers.”
We would like to extend our thanks and gratitude to all who attended, both invited guests and students for what we hope is the first annual GCU Law Clinic Speed Networking Evening. Thanks must also go to Patrick Ring who helped with the organisation of the evening and especially to James Connolly and Andrew Tickell, lecturers in Law at GCU for footing the bill for the wine. Everyone definitely appreciated that!
A full gallery of pictures from the event taken by Joe Beaver on behalf of GCU Visual can be found here.
It’s been a while since we’ve had one of these posts up but dissertation deadlines, coursework and exams have all gotten in the way.
FAMILIES OF HILLSBOROUGH VICTIMS TO SUE POLICE
The families of the victims of the Hillsborough tragedy are planning to launch a multimillion-pound claim against two police forces following this week’s decision that the 96 victims were unlawfully killed. James Saunders of Saunders Law, on behalf of the victims, spoke of evidence of a systematic cover-up intended to shift the blame away from the police. His colleague Nia Williams said the action was, “for accountability, not damages”, for the families who have been suffering since 1989.
More on the inquest and the fight for justice can be found in the excellent work of David Conn (@David_Conn) and can be read here.
EU REFERENDUM DEMYSTIFIED BY FREE E-BOOK WRITTEN BY ACADEMICS
Produced by The Hunter Foundation in partnership with a host of the UK’s leading European scholars a free eBook entitled Britain’s Decision – Facts and Impartial Analysis has identified 19 key questions. It attempts to offer impartial analysis of these 19 issues and Sir Tom Hunter hopes that it will allow voters to make up their own mind about the huge decision ahead.
BRITON’S ABROAD LOSE HIGH COURT BID TO VOTE IN THE EU REFERENDUM
A challenge brought by two Britons living abroad, one in Italy and the other in Belgium who wanted to have their say in the forthcoming referendum have had their bid denied. It is estimated two million Britons living elsewhere within the EU will not be able to take part in the referendum. Aidan O’Neill QC who represented the expats said that in the event of a victory for the Leave campaign British expats would no longer be EU citizens, meaning that their rights to live, work and receive health care free at the point of use will be in jeopardy. James Eadie QC, representing the government argued that had the challenge been successful then it would be impossible for the referendum to take place as planned on 23 June.
Former GCU Law lecturer Chris McCorkindale (@chrismccork) has written a piece examining issues with the expansion of judicial power resulting from devolution. These powers carry significant constitutional implications yet have not been the subject of any serious scrutiny. Chris breaks down the implications in an excellent piece for the Judicial Power Project.
NOMINEES FOR THE NEXT UK JUDGE AT THE EUROPEAN COURT OF HUMAN RIGHTS
The nominees for the next UK judge at the ECHR have been revealed. Tim Eicke QC has appeared at the Supreme Court numerous times instructed by both claimants and the government. He has been a QC since 2011. Jessica Simor QC has also appeared for both claimants and the government and recently represented pro-privacy groups at the European Court of Justice against the UK government in a surveillance case. Finally, Murray Hunt, a founder of Matrix Chambers and visiting lecturer at Oxford University who also advises parliaments joint committee on human rights.
CAN THERESA MAY LEAVE THE EUROPEAN CONVENTION OF HUMAN RIGHTS?
For anyone with a spare ten minutes GCU Law lecturer Nick McKerrell (@DrNikLaw) has recorded an excellent podcast on the European Convention on Human Rights and whether Theresa May can remove us from it.
It’s been a busy week in the law clinic as in addition to our client workload we ran a Speed Networking evening in the university on Tuesday and attended the Scottish Legal Awards last night. We were nominated in the Pro Bono category and made it all the way to the final four. Unfortunately we didn’t win but there’s always next year and there will be posts up soon on both events. Anyway, these are the legal stories which caught our volunteers attention this week.
Hulk Hogan Wins Damages Case Against Gawker
Last week’s review linked to the Hulk Hogan v Gawker showdown in the US Courts. The decision was reached this week and The Hulkster will be very happy with the result! He has been awarded $115m in damages and the size of the award has led to questions regarding the impact it will have across the publishing industry and also on the future of Gawker.
Medical experts believe that current drug policies are leading to deaths, violence, the spread of disease and in addition harm both health and human rights. Should drug use be treated as a health issue rather than a criminal one?
Mr Justice Langstaff has praised the Faculty of Advocates for a scheme which helps claimants at hearings of the Employment Appeal Tribunal. For people without legal experience to appear on their own behalf can be a frightening prospect so the assistance of the Faculty in addressing this unmet legal need is of massive benefit.
An artificial intelligence designed by a 19 year old student is estimated to have save people £2m and rising in parking fines. The site which provides legal advice is not regulated by a legal regulatory body so who actually oversees it if it goes wrong?
These are the legal stories which caught our volunteers eyes this week. We’re in the process of getting some original pieces together on the big stories put up on here to follow on from our podcast series last year but until now here are our legal highlights of the week.
Should Schools Ban Tackling In Rugby?
There have been calls for a ban on tackling in rugby at school level backed by a group of more than 70 doctors and sporting experts who have sent a letter to government ministers. The risk of brain injuries caused by head trauma has been a major concern to World Rugby whose Chief Medical Officer has conceded a rule change may be required. At the moment the responsibility for the decision lies with the schools but this is shaping up to be a very contentious debate.
The Government has successfully applied for the ban on smoking in prisons to be overturned. The ban on smoking in public places does not apply to state prisons and other crown premises in England and Wales according to the appeal court.
Provisions in UK finance law are being expanded to include rogue bankers who will now face lengthy prison terms if they are found guilty of ‘reckless misconduct’ in the course of their business. The new Certification Regime and Conduct Rules will hold bankers accountable at an individual level. Furthermore, the existing provisions known as ‘Senior Managers and Certification Regime’ have been extended to include all sectors of the financial services industry. These developments have been in place since Monday the 7th March 2016. Chancellor George Osbourne is hopeful that these tougher provisions will avoid the financial crises experienced in recent years and to ensure that the banking sector performs to an adequate standard.
Legal Aid Granted for Private Prosecution in the Glasgow Bin Lorry Crash
The relatives of the victims of the Glasgow bin lorry crash have been granted legal aid after seeking a private prosecution against Harry Clarke, the driver of the bin lorry.
The Crown Office refused to charge Clarke, who fainted at the wheel, for the deaths of the six pedestrians, despite a fatal accident inquiry finding that he had lied about his medical history. Erin McQuade and her grandparents, Jack and Lorraine Sweeney, the relatives of the three victims of the Christmas 2014 crash, are seeking the prosecution against Clarke and have now applied directly to the high court for permission to stage the case.
The Scottish government’s justice secretary, Michael Matheson, said legal aid would also be granted to Clarke and to William Payne, who is facing a similar prosecution by relatives of the victims involved in a similar incident in Glasgow city centre in 2010. Matheson said the case can go ahead as it “raises fundamental questions that have not previously been tested in case law.”
However, there has been criticism from people who believe the prosecution should not go ahead, particularly privately. Judges will decide on this within the next week. GCU lecturer in law Andrew Tickell goes behind the headlines with his analysis at http://lallandspeatworrier.blogspot.co.uk/
Demand for Pro Bono Work has Almost Doubled since Cuts to Legal Aid
The number of applications the Bar Pro Bono Unit receives for legal assistance has almost doubled since widespread cuts to civil legal aid was introduced three years ago.
The Justice Secretary, Michael Gove, endorsed pro bono legal work in his first policy, proposing that the UK’s “two-nation” justice system can be improved by persuading “those who have benefited financially from our legal culture … to invest in its roots”.
Increasing demand for free legal representation and advice has applied serious pressures on legal aid charities and the goodwill of barristers and solicitors.
Over 3,600 barristers have committed themselves to helping desperate claimants. Jess Campbell, the unit’s chief executive, said: “We are seeing a 30% increase in applications year on year. The bar has always supported pro bono work and giving unbilled hours. It’s in the nature of the profession to do it.” Approximately 90% of the unit’s funding comes from the bar, chambers and individual barristers.
Legal professionals warn that pro bono work is not there to fill any legal aid gap.
Online Court proposed to resolve claims of up to £25,000
The Civil Justice council has called for an internet-based dispute resolutions system to be implemented within the next two years. The official body that overlooks the Civil Courts has recommended that the UK Justice system should adapt to the shifting patterns of the so called ‘digital age’ with the introduction of an online court system to widen access to justice and resolve claims of up to £25,000. Low-value civil court cases in England and Wales could be dealt with by online disputes which would similar to that already used by eBay. The report’s principle author, Professor Richard Susskind, said that ‘’The current system is too costly, too complex and too slow, especially for litigants in person’’. The online dispute resolution (ODR) model proposes a three-tier process: the evaluation through interactive services and information, discussion between online ‘’facilitators’’ and finally, if no agreement has been reached, then a resolution would be achieved by a trained judge relying on electronic submissions. If it was felt necessary, then a telephone hearings system could also be built in the final stage of the system. Only the judge would have to be legally qualified and rulings by the ‘’online judge’’ would be as enforceable as any traditional courtroom judgment.
Judge challenges government over legal representation for vulnerable people
Mr Justice Charles, a senior high court judge, has challenged the government to provide legal assistance and representation for vulnerable people as a backlog of safeguards cases that cannot be tried builds up in the court of protection. The ruling, if applied, will halt the advancement of thousands of sensitive requests a year most commonly involving those with dementia, Alzheimer’s or learning disabilities who need some sort of treatment involving some loss of liberty. The judgement comes as a result of the most recent confrontation in the debate between the legal profession and ministers over how much money should be spent on the justice system in a time of real difficulty.
On Monday 14th December some of the clinic team had the chance to take part in an employment law workshop run for us on the topic of Disability Discrimination and Reasonable Adjustments in the Workplace.
Barry Nichol and Mandy Armstrong from the employment law team at Anderson Strathern donated the session free of charge to the law clinic and all of our advisers who took part really enjoyed the morning. Disability discrimination is an area we have had enquiries about in the past and so to be able to hear from two experienced practitioners currently working in that field on how to handle the cases was a great opportunity. Both were excellent speakers and laid out brilliantly for the team the main areas of the law, important cases and talked us through how to manage a case from start to finish.
Everyone who was in the session felt they took a lot away from it and we are extremely grateful to Barry and Mandy for giving up their time to come through from Edinburgh and speak to us.
We are constantly trying to improve our service and this will hopefully be the first of many sessions with firms and organisations to ensure the advisers in the clinic are able to take on a varied range of cases and get the desired result for our clients.
On Wednesday 9th December the team spent the day on Buchanan Street advertising our services to Glasgow’s public. It was a good opportunity for us to raise our profile in the community and showcase the services that we offer.
We have a huge resource of legal knowledge amongst our LLB students and the Law Clinic is a way for them to put what they learn on the law programme into practice. Claire McFadzean (Academic Director) says “The work of the Law Clinic aligns perfectly with our goal to be the University for the Common Good. I am very proud of our LLB students and how they positively impact our local community.” Ian Laing (Student Director) says that “our student advisers make a huge difference to people’s lives with the assistance that they provide through advising members of the public. “
Patricia Taylor (Operations Manager (The Law Clinic)) “Having a stall on Buchanan Street as Glasgow’s shops are entering their busiest period will allow us to promote the Law Clinic to a huge number of people and with recent changes in consumer law it means people may be unsure of their rights”.
Due to our location on the GCU campus right in the heart of Glasgow City Centre, directly opposite Buchanan Bus Station and just a short walk from Queen Street and Glasgow Central stations we are ideally placed for people requiring help.
This will be the first of many promotional events the Law Clinic undertakes. We are hoping to run a similar event elsewhere in Glasgow around spring time and make it a regular feature in our calendar.
On Monday the 26th of October, the Law Clinic Street Law team hosted a session in our moot room with sixth year pupils from schools such as All Saints RC Secondary, Springburn Academy, St Mungos Academy and St Andrews RC Secondary who are interested in undertaking a LLB degree. The pupils were spending a day shadowing first year LLB students at GCU to get insight into university life. As part of the day, the pupils took part in a speed moot session with us which allowed them to spend time preparing and participating in the moots and create an ethical argument on whether or not someone should be entitled to life saving treatment.
The pupils were split into senior appellants and respondents, junior appellants and respondents and judges. At this stage, the judges were taken into the Law Clinics office and briefed on the scenario and their role. The respondents and appellants were separated and given fifteen minutes to form arguments for the party they were defending.
Once the fifteen minutes was up, the pupils were set up in their teams consisting of a senior and junior respondent, a senior and junior appellant and a judge. Each counsel had 6 minutes split between the junior and senior to persuade the judge in their favour. Some of the arguments put across for the appellants were; everyone should be entitled to the same treatment, right to life and for the respondents; costs of treatment, draining resources which could be used to save many more lives and that one life cannot be prioritised over another.
After the judges had heard both parties argument, they were brought to the front and asked to state who they were in favour of and on what grounds. The judges unanimously found in favour of the respondents who were acting on behalf of the NHS.
The interactive session with the school pupils was a great success with many saying it was the favourite part of their day at GCU. Rachel Campbell (Outreach Manager) was delighted that 100% of the pupils rated the experience as good or excellent.
The experience was described as excellent by a pupil from Springburn Academy who said “it gave me an insight [into] what it’s like to be a student at GCU and I’ve gained some skills from it too”. Another pupil from St Andrews RC Secondary ranked everything about the Street Law experience as excellent and commented that “being able to take part practically rather than being shown made me want to learn”.
Ian Laing (Student Director) was thrilled that all the pupils who participated would be keen to take part in Street Law again.