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April 18, 2014


Playing with Law: A tribute to Fran Wright

by Jess Guth

It has been a difficult few days. On Monday morning I woke up to the news I had been trying to prepare myself for but which I was never going to be ready for: My former colleague and dear friend Fran Wright had died. That was news that I had hoped wouldn’t come since we heard that Fran was seriously ill. It was the news that I thought might not come after she was making what seemed to be an amazing recovery (of course she was going to get better – this is Fran we’re talking about). But it came nonetheless and as another amazing woman lost quite recently once said about death: ‘Her loss is as unfathomable as everything else’ (with thanks to Dr Emma Lindley).

Fran was kind and supportive when I first started working at Bradford Uni Law School. She was so full of enthusiasm for teaching law, for research, for life. Her creative approach to law and legal rules is something that left an impression. I remember problem questions about pink unicorns, lectures about quilting and feminist legal reasoning and wine spilled over exam papers. I remember giggles and peeing your pants kind of laughing. We worked together and wrote together (not nearly enough), we had dinner every now and again (she was an excellent cook), we exchanged tomato plants as easily as we exchanged ideas and she is still one of the very few people who has seen me attempt the hula hoop on the Wii Fit.  The one thing though that is, in my mind at least, her legacy, is her ability to play with the law and teach others to do so. She re-ignited my passion for legal rules, for knowing the law and for spending time actually engaging with statutes and cases. And that’s because she reminded me that good lawyers (academic or practitioners) are creative. That using law to make an argument is an incredibly creative process and that it is the most innovative use of law which drives research forward. That is exciting! Fran Wright taught me how to play with law through our discussions, debates, our giggles and our chats. She reminded me that law is fun. At the same time I watched her teach our students the same and had the privilege of co-designing and co-teaching a module with her. The module still exisits and I will continue teaching it as long as I can.

I feel lost without her. A bright star in legal scholarship and legal education has burned out – but the idea of playing with law shines on and I hope I can inspire creativity in law and legal study in the future because I can think of no better way to honour an amazing woman who died far too young.

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