CLE conference wrap-up

by Paul Maharg on 22/06/2015

During the final session just blogged by Pamela, Pat Leighton mentioned this was a thought-provoking conference, and she’s right.  There was theory, but there was also a care for  intelligent practice, and this contributed to the tone.  I’ve been to conferences that were edgier, others that were abrasively critical, and some that were distant and chilly in tone.  What I liked about this conference of under 50 delegates was that it was quietly supportive and welcoming, but at the same time it opened balanced dialogue, not just between participants and audiences at paper delivery sessions, but between everyone, at breaks and elsewhere.  This isn’t just a result of size: it’s a quality that can be absent in small conferences, and present in large conferences (CALI consistently achieves it in the US, because of the careful planning by John Mayer and his team to bring it about between the three key constituent groups of academics, librarians and technical staff, with hundreds attending the conference).  It’s the result of planning to define the tone and manner of the meeting – for example limiting parallel sessions and extending the time span of the conference.  The result was a measured conference where there was enough space to think about the issues raised, meet others, make plans, think about the future in a collegiate and collaborative way.  It reminded me of a miniature version of the convivium Michael McGhee and I organised on Papay.

This was present in the conference interpretations of the theme, access to justice.  It was a component of a surprising number of papers, demonstrating the breadth of the concept, and within the domain of legal education.  It thus extended legal education by taking a concept that isn’t only a legal educational concept, and allowing speakers to explore it within education.  Ron Staudt noted how he was struck by the emphasis on education, when in US law schools there’s still an emphasis on the crisis of student numbers at conferences.  I’d argue that that crisis was already well-developed when the Carnegie Report pointed out how to avoid it — back in 2007, it was already too late.  We had been looking away, and for too long.  OK, it’s a general point, but probably holds true for most law schools, caught within an unsustainable model.  Pat Leighton made a similar point in her Reflections session.  And she pointed out what we need — more research, co-ordination of projects and ideas, more confirmatory and larger studies.  It’s the point I’ve been making at least since Transforming – that we need to organise our tools and our time, and map our field, not just the varied topography of it, but also the rich archaeological dimensions that lie underneath the quotidian surface of our lives in that field.  If there was anything we needed to do more of in this conference, it was to unearth the past, explore the radical futures that were envisioned in that past, and think about how they could help us in our own contemporary dilemmas, our complexed, compromised futures.

Another unusual feature of this conference: it was relatively small, with less than 50 participants and speakers, held outside London (which does make a difference), but still managed to be international in scope.  There were posters from Hungary and India; papers from Scotland, England, Wales, Ireland, India, Turkey, USA, Australia, New Zealand, Canada; participants from Fiji, Chile and China.  And we had a relatively high proportion of doctoral students (at least six in total, which was encouraging).  The international dimension was so welcome, giving rise to fascinating conversations paralleling what happens in various jurisdictions.

Many thanks to Jane Ching and Jo Boylan-Kemp and their team for organising such a great conference.  Extra special thanks to my fellow-blogger Pamela Henderson for her extensive and witty postings – to judge from the blog stats on who is reading what, unlike this hack she has a second career as a celebrity blogger…


CLE15: Reflections (PH)

by Pamela Henderson on 21/06/2015

Our CLE 2015 Conference is drawing to a close.  My co-blogger, Paul, will have the honour of posting our final blog entry, so watch out for that.  In the meantime, we have Prof. Patricia Leighton, co-director of LERN UK, bringing formal proceedings to a graceful close.  LERN has done a huge amount of work in the UK in supporting new researchers in the area of legal education.  Thank you to LERN and to Pat.

Pat explained where her reflections are coming from.  Her primary role is not to be part of the legal system/profession per se; she works largely with non-lawyers, including in FranceGermany and the Netherlands.

Pat acknowledged that a conference on access to justice is very timely as we are in a state of huge change and facing dramatic challenges in terms of how we respond to those challenges. What those challenges are,  how they impact upon access to justice, and what is the role of legal educators and lawyers in mitigating negative impacts, formed the theme of Pat’s presentation.

The role of legal educators in equipping students with the skills, perspectives and appreciation of the context of people accessing justice is considerable.  We are taking students a long way from where they have traditionally been (e.g. a didactic approach to teaching law), and involving them in activities that develop their skillset and emotional intelligence, such that they can engage with, and confront, systemic issues and limitations on individual access to justice.  Pat challenged us to ask ourselves whether we are becoming less quiescent and, if so, how far has social media influenced this?  Are we more willing, as a society, to challenge the actions of government or the legal system  On the other hand, has there been too much demand for, and focus on, de-regulation, at the expense of professionalism?  Have we begun to associate law and regulation with ‘red tape’, with its negative connotations, and losing sight of the legal protection that they afford to individuals.  Pat drew our attention to the fact that accidents at work are increasing in the UK, for the first time in many years, and there may be a link between this and our rush to de-regulation and claimed elimination of red tape.    She also reminded us of topical issues, such as certain decisions not to prosecute alleged high profile paedophiles, or the expansion of phone tapping and the snooper’s charter.  South Africa recently failed to hand over Omar Hassan Ahmed al-Bashir to the International Criminal Court in circumstances that many would consider to be embarrassing and undermining for the South African legal system.  Pat is clearly challenging us to reflect on what might be seen as societal apathy and a lack of accountability and collective responsibility.

Pat commented on how we are heading into a (near) future where legal services will be delivered by many different legal practitioners.  Pat also spoke about the ability of people to promote and pressurise for major change, facilitated by the internet and social media that can engage individuals with each other in ways we have never experienced before.  What are the implications here for access to justice?  On the one hand, there may be an emerging body of purported lawyers, but they may not all have a legal contextual background or the professionalism of the traditional legal professions.  On the other hand, social media and online petitions etc hand considerable power to the populace to campaign for change.  It is hard to imagine the European Citizens’ Initiative being at all viable without the latter!

Pat also discussed issues around barriers to access to the legal profession and the legal education itself.  We had a whistle top tour of the old common law writ system, that supported the development of law and thus expanded access to justice, built on a consumer-driven model.  Power to the people!  Nowadays, developing law and responding to changes in society is driven by Parliament (and the political party in power) rather than by individuals.

Of course, as Pat says, some academics may dine out on the fact that their textbook or other output may be cited in the Court of Appeal.  However, as she says, that is actually rare, so while we may like to acknowledge our influence on the development of law and judicial action, is it particularly significant?  Are we really so effective as change agents?  Pat appears to think not (ouch).

Pat reflected on the papers that have been delivered over the last three days and highlighted the links between the following, which have been so clearly and almost uniquely articulated in this Conference:

  • Pedagogy – the way we deliver courses – access to justice

She also commented on the friendliness and collaborative atmosphere of the Conference, which has facilitated the ready exchange of ideas and experiences.  There is much for everyone to take away on our theme and we should recognise that we are, in a way, a valuable resource for each other.

But Pat also had a word of advice for us:  there have been so many wonderful presentations on different things that we have been doing, but please can we have research into this, evaluate its effectiveness, reflect on it, be hard nosed and expose it to serious critique i.e. prove whether our good ideas are actually working.

Come to learn:  we will free you (at least to some extent)!





Liz Curran next, from ANU.  She teaches on the Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice there, which has simulations, working in teams, etc.  She still works in legal practice, and publishes widely on integrated service delivery, a2j, ethics, clinical legal education and human rights.

She defined the differences between clinics and practical legal education placement programmes.  The latter are ‘designed to provide opportunities to acquire practical legal skills’.  She demonstrated the use of role plays derived from real life experiences of clients/lawyers to make the law come alive and engage future practitioners — four examples, below.  She discussed examples from the Practical Legal Training course at ANU, particularly the ‘Becoming a Practitioner’ (BAP) Course, ANU Legal Workshop, focusing on group dynamics, as a preliminary to team work on the Course and the rest of the PLT.

Example 1
In the first activity a couple of students take on a designated negative role and the whole group must provide an advice in 10 minutes to the Senior Partner because it is urgent.  In the second, the students take on positive roles and in 10 minutes also have to provide advice.  These are based on real-life cases and students are advised of the real life outcomes after their final debrief (after each activity).  There are secret instructions for students in the role play.  Second scenario as follows:


Example 2
Two role plays for client interviews from difficult or vulnerable backgrounds, eg


Liz demonstrated the types of behaviours by students in the role plays — with debrief on how did you feel, what did you want to do, how successful was it, and many other questions.

Example 3
Improving the legal system’s operation.  This assessment involved students in law reform through assignments eg Law Reform project where, if good enough (eg A+ – they identify the decision-make and send to the decision-maker).

Example 4
Use of Journaling.  In PIP students are required to keep a number of journal entries which have guiding questions that encourage reflection.  The focus is on concrete examples of what worked and why

Good workshop paper and discussion about role play, the advantages and the problems that can arise from its use, including one’s own emotional boundaries, role of knowledge, emotion and skills.  And here’s a first for this liveblogger — Nigel Duncan was the scribe for his group, and emailed his group’s discussion summary to me:

We all use real cases as students rarely believe that this can really have happened, eg big rail disaster as basis for the entire module – health and safety course.

Can use them to develop practice skills.

Can use them as a teaching device to teach concepts of how the law relates to what is going on in the world and how people are responding to it.

Using skills is also a valuable vehicle for learning the law – brings it alive.

Contract, for example, if taught through the classic cases, is very remote to people’s experience – so using real situations makes it very much more relevant to students.

If based on pending litigation must anonymise.

Ernesto – how do we make cases come alive. We need to help students to undertake role play. It can be very stressful. This is particularly an issue with international students who have been brought up in a completely different approach towards educational practice. – perhaps video actors undertaking the roles, particularly in very challenging situations – for students to observe.

Great idea!  Must build that into future workshop design.  Big learning moment for me…


CLE15: The Role of Legal Clinics in Access to Justice in Turkish Legal Education

June 21, 2015

Presented by Kilinc Ayse and Akkus Ezgi Fulya from Afyon Kocatepe University in Turkey. Kilinc and Akkus focused on how they are helping their students to develop the skills they will need to support their future clients in accessing the justice system.  In particular, they discussed: the right of access to justice as a legal […]

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CLE15: Nottingham Creative IP Project (PH)

June 21, 2015

Presented by Nick Johnson and Janice Denoncourt from NLS. Janice and Nick had sponsorship of £69,000 (a lot for Law) from the Intellectual Property Offic and the EU to establish a project that combined expertise from the NLS Legal Advice Centre, the IP Research Group, the Hive and the School of Art & Design.  They […]

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Access to justice for crime victims, the accused, and the community: teaching law students about the role of the prosecutor in advancing social justice (PM)

June 21, 2015

First session of the third and last day, and it’s Lynn Su from New York Law School.  She’s a former assistant district attorney from the Office of the District Attorney (DA), Bronx County, NY City. She is describing a clinic run at NYLS that focuses on prosecution (apparently the model for the office of Law […]

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Caste in law schools?

June 21, 2015

Caste, it appears, doesn’t exist in law schools.  But Sameena argues the opposite — it’s very much there.  Cf World Report 2008 – ‘Dalits and indigenous peoples … continue to face discrimination, exclusion and acts of violence.’  In law and caste, what happens to these cases?  Very little data — eg number of cases.  And […]

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Do we need a professor for the public understanding of law? (PM)

June 21, 2015

Final session, first up, Graeme Broadbent (Kingston U., UK).  After the appointment of Brian Cox as Prof for Public Engagement in Science, do we need it for law?  There are profs for public understanding of history, marine health and other subjects.  We’re behind, in law, says Graeme.  Information about law and legal issues is still […]

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CLE15: McKenzie Friends (PH)

June 21, 2015

My last live blog for today! Full title:  Training Law Students to be McKenzie Friends for Victims of Domestic Abuse. Presented by:  Veronica Lachkovic who teaches on the Bar Professional Training Course for aspiring barristers at City Law School. Ronnie spoke to us about the invaluable work she has been doing, supporting and training students […]

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CLE15: It’s Jane and Michele (PH)

June 21, 2015

Full Title:  Justice for All:  Reflective Practice and Reflective Learning We had a double act, as this session was co-presented by our own Prof. Jane Ching (who coincidentally has just launched a distance learning LLM in Legal Education) and also Michele Leering, Executive Director of the Community Advocacy & Legal Centre in Canada (and passionate […]

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