Tag Archives: Law

Call for Papers: LETR 5 years on

I am really excited that my institution is hosting a one day event next June (25th June) to celebrate (if that’s the right word? Maybe ‘mark’ is better) 5 years since the publication of the Legal Education and Training Review. It’s going to be a great event. We already have representatives from the professional bodies as well as most of the original research team confirmed as speakers. In addition Professor Anthony Bradney has agreed to give the closing keynote. I can’t wait. The call for papers is ready but of course all distribution and membership lists have closed down for the Christmas break, getting anything on the Law school website might not happen until January either and getting the call out there is just really difficult at this time of year.

We are however working to relatively tight deadlines with abstracts due by the 29th January and this might be the one week where academics have just that little bit of time to think about abstracts and papers (who am I kidding, most of us are too tired to function!). So here it is:

LETR 5 Years on – call for papers

And for those of you who (like me) find clicking on a link too much like hard work as you reach for another mince pie, here’s what you need to know:

We now invite submission of abstracts for papers which explore any aspect of the LETR and subsequent developments. Topics might include but are not limited to

  • Who are tomorrow’s lawyers and who should be educating/training them?
  • What are Law Degrees for?
  • Routes to qualification for solicitors, barristers and legal executives
  • Education and training for paralegals
  • The value of a liberal legal education
  • The impact of LETR and subsequent developments on specific substantive areas
  • Impact of the LETR and subsequent developments on Law Schools
  • International comparisons
  • The Futures of Legal Education and Training

Please submit your abstract of no more than 500 words to Dr Jessica Guth by email (j.guth@leedsbeckett.ac.uk) stating 3-5 keywords which will help us group related papers together. The deadline for submission is 5pm on Monday 29th January 2018. We will make decisions on the abstracts and put together a preliminary programme by Friday 9th February.

It’s going to be a great day and I look forward to seeing your abstracts. If you want to come but don’t want to present anything, booking for the event will open in February and we will keep the cost of the event to a minimum. Watch this space!

The Association of Law Teachers

So, we’re heading for a general election. I don’t quite know what to say about that and anything I might say wouldn’t be exactly uplifting. Let’s therefore turn our attention to something happier and more exciting for a few moments. Last week I was at the excellent Association of Law Teachers annual conference and last week my term as Vice Chair came to an end. I became Chair.

I am excited, honoured and not just a little bit daunted to lead this amazing organisation for the next two years. In many ways the Association is my tribe, my people, the place I feel I can most be myself in this strange world we call academia. A group of people ‘passionate about legal learning’ and committed to understanding learning, teaching and all things legal education – what could be more inspiring than that? I have been a member of the Association since I got my first lectureship and have been part of the committee since shortly after that, first as Membership Secretary, then as Vice Chair and now as Chair. I have enjoyed it, learned a lot, met great people and been inspired to do my job better.

We are in exciting (is that the right word?) times. Things are changing and they are changing fast. Higher Education is changing, the legal services market is changing, legal education and training is changing – and not all for the better I would argue. All this change makes it it more important than ever that we talk to each other, learn from each other, help each other understand what is going on and what the impacts might be and that we make our voices heard. The ALT can help us all do that. Over the next two years I hope to see our membership grow. Not only will this help add power to our voice(s) and make sure the ALT continues to represent law teachers across the sectors but it will also allow us to put more back into the membership, offer more opportunities in terms of events, grants and prizes and secure our future as one of the key learned associations.

It is a genuine privilege to follow in the footsteps of the amazing Chris Ashford and fabulous Rebecca Huxley-Binns and all the other great Chairs the Association has seen over the years. I wouldn’t be able to do the job without the support of a fantastic committee of volunteers who all work unbelievably hard for the ALT. I thank them in advance for putting up with me for the next two years!

You can find more information about the Association on the website (it will be updated in due course) and you can engage with the Association on Twitter and Facebook. Please do join if you are a law teacher – at any level. The support, information, friendships and advice I got through being a member have been invaluable.

 

 

Questions

So I haven’t blogged in a while. That might be because I’m not currently working. If I’m off sick does that mean I am still a legal academic? Are my ramblings still those of a legal academic? Interesting question there about identity… Professor Huxley-Binns posed another interesting one at the start of the Lord Upjohn Lecture – the Association of Law Teachers’ Annual London event relatively recently (forgive me but my sense of time is completely off lately). She asked ‘Do you think like a lawyer?’. ‘Hell no’ was my initial reaction. But…

Well, yes that but has been bothering me ever since. I loved her lecture and I was going to blog about it immediately after but then sort of didn’t and anyway, here we are. Anyway, as Becky was talking I started wondering if maybe I do think like a lawyer and I have been thinking about that question and what it means ever since. I think the question is on my mind because I’m not sure what my place is in this world of legal academia. I always loved being an academic and maybe because of that I sort of forgot to look after the one person who can shape my career into what I want it to be: Me. Maybe after the years of long hours, living, breathing, dreaming work and then 18 months of working in a management role that highlights things I knew but could just pretend weren’t real before and that requires 60+ hours a week just to stay vaguely on top of things it’s not that surprising that eventually I crashed.

So not only am I asking if I think like a lawyer, to me the more fundamental question is do I think like an academic lawyer or even more complex than that: Does my current role, or even any academic job, allow me to think like me. I think that’s it. I want to think like me, and often that is thinking like a lawyer if we define lawyer broadly and often I think like an academic but thinking like an academic isn’t all that compatible with the neo-liberal, corporate crap that goes on in most institutions.

I go back to work on 18th January, after my holiday and first ever marathon (I’ve been blogging about the running here). I’m not sure I want to go back, not because I am not well enough, I probably am, and not because I like the being at home not doing much, I’m getting bored, but because I don’t actually know that I want to be an academic . I’ll continue to explore the why of that in my head and will, I’m sure, be ready to share that soon. I don’t know what else I would want to do so it’s not that I’ve found something I enjoy more…

I know this is a real ramble and I don’t have answers but I wanted to put this out there before we hit all the new year resolutions stuff because I don’t really believe in them and this isn’t about changing my life in 2016… Maybe I just need a good long run to get some clarity.. oh wait.

Clearing – I’ve been there

It is A-Level results week. But then if you have any interest in universities or schools you will know that. This week always comes with mixed feelings for me. I remember the disappointment of not quite getting the A-levels I was hoping for, the heartbreak of not getting into my first choice uni (Sheffield if anyone cares), the panic about not being able to find a place and the excitement of eventually securing a place to study Law at Leicester. It’s also a week of mixed feelings because this week I have to make decisions which change people’s lives.

Anyway, CLEARING. I was there once. It is awful. I got my results, I missed one A grade by a tiny margin and didn’t meet my offer. I called and was rejected. I cried. I had my heart set on going to Sheffield. In those days you had to go through the newspaper to find institutions with place available. I called Leicester because I had actually been on an open day there and liked it a lot – I’d just liked Sheffield more at the time. I also phoned the University of Sussex – my Mum went there as a student – that was the extent of my knowledge. Both institutions took my details, both said they’d phone back. I waited. Leicester called first and offered me a place on the LLB. I accepted and then I cried –  a lot, mostly with relief. I was going to Uni and I was going somewhere I’d seen and I’d liked and it was all going to be fine.

What’s my advice to anyone facing this possible scenario tomorrow? It’ll be fine, don’t panic. Breathe. My institution offers some advice (as do most others I would imagine!) – it includes thinking about where else you might want to go and make a list of alternatives. Do that now. Did you like the look of any institutions you visited for an Open Day but didn’t select in the end? That might be a good candidate to phone – you already know something about them. Think about how far away from home you want to go, if you’re going to live at home then that limits your options, if not, how easy to you want to make it for your parents to come visit or for you to nip home? Put the list in order of preference and then, if you have to, you can start at the top and work your way down.

On the day make sure you have your phone fully charged or access to a landline (ideally both so you can use one for calling out, leaving a line clear for call backs) and make sure you can access your email. Also have pen and paper ready so you can easily take down any reference numbers.

Take your time over making the decision. This decision will change your life. The university and the course have to be right for you. If you don’t know the institution, ask if you can go visit, speak to an academic if possible, ask questions, see if it feels right. This is about your future after all! Listen to those around you offering advice but remember that ultimately it has to be your decision!

And if you just haven’t got the grades to do what you really want? Well that can happen. Get advice. Maybe there’s a foundation year you can do, maybe your College can offer resits or further study or maybe you’re just not as suited to your chosen subject as you thought and it is time for a re-think. Talk it through, think it through, don’t do anything in a panic

Good Luck. I feel for you, I really do. I’ve been there. I will take up my duties on our Clearing helpline tomorrow morning with a knot in my stomach. I will remember my 18 year old self and I will try and handle any of your calls with the same calm and reassurance as the admissions team did at Leicester all those years ago (thank you  – whoever it was!) and I really do hope I’ll be able to say ‘yes, please join us for your student journey’.

Reading ‘On Liberty’ by Shami Chakrabarti

The real luxury of having a few days off work is that I have actually had time to read – not read as I do for work but just curl up on the sofa for hours at a time and actually enjoy a book. For Christmas/my Birthday I got several books but was most excited about On Liberty. On Liberty

Whenever I hear Shami Chakrabarti speak she always makes perfect sense to me. She can articulate clearly things that I just sort of feel but can neither put my finger on nor reason out fully. So you might say my expectations were high when I started reading. I finished the book in 3 sittings – the first only cut short by my inability to keep my eyes open past 11pm and the second by a cat deciding the book would make a comfy pillow. It’s a good book, it’s an easy read but it is also an important book. It’s a book, that for me, puts into focus why I like living here, why my politics are my politics, why I love law and why I love teaching law and teaching it at an institution like the University of Bradford.

I’m not a human rights lawyer, I have a basic familiarity with the legal provisions and even some of the cases (told as the personal stories they are in the book!) but I’m no expert and to read this, to understand it and to really think about it you don’t need to be. Shami has done the hard bit for us all and she writes so clearly and so persuasively that I find myself wondering why I hadn’t been able to articulate exactly that before I read her arguments. The key thing I keep coming back to – because like any good book On Liberty haunts me for a bit making it impossible to start another book, impossible to really think about anything other than the arguments or the story while what I read whirls around in my head – yes the key thing is this: The Rule of Law.

In various contexts I have been thinking about the rule of law lately. I have been involved in various committees etc inclusing one looking at the Quality Assurance Agency standards for law degrees in the form of the subject benchmark; there’s the various Law Learned Associations and our responses to changes to the regulation of the education and training for lawyers and then there is of course the introduction of new programmes at Bradford. All of these activities throw up the question of what we/I think a law graduate should understand/know/be able to do. What is a law graduate? Well, after reading On Liberty it seems to me that the answer is actually quite simpe – A law graduate must understand the rule of law, know its importance and be able to defend it. That’s it. Everything else is detail.

And of course I mean rule of law proper – not some watered down for convenience version where the powerful get to make exceptions when it suits them. Of course Shami is writing in a particular context – that of Human Rights and it is here where the need for adherence to the rule of law is perhaps at its most obvious, where it hits you in the face but there are countless other examples and the strength of the book, in my view, is that it shows how all our rights and those of others are interconnected. Things that do not immediately jump out as Human Rights issues so cleary are if you just stop to think for a minute (or accept that not everyone can have as brilliant a mind as Shami Chakrabarti and let her take you through the argument instead).

Occassionally the book rambled a little but in a good way, the way conversations ramble and move from one issue to the next not always following a predictable path but getting to the point nonetheless. It does this even where the terrain gets tricky, teacherous even. I like that Shami does not shy away from calling things difficult, that she admits that sometimes things make her uncomfortable. I read the passages about religion towards the end of the book with interest. I have always struggled reconciling my views on human rights, equality, religion etc and once again Shami does it for me – it’s ok to feel uncomfortable about religious symbols, dress etc but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t allow people to wear them. It’s ok to be offended and it is ok to offend. There must never be a right not to be offended, I agree. I also agree that there are difficult lines to be drawn for each of us personally and maybe also legally  so I leave you with this quote from the TV Series The West Wing which Shami uses (see p 120) and which is one I had noted down for teaching. In the series (fictional) Matt Santos, Presidential Candidate, says this about the US Constitution and religion: ‘This wasn’t designed to make us comfortable. It was desgined to keep us free’. I think it applies to Human Rights and the rule of law too.