Street Law – not your standard law lecture
11 Aug 16
Laura-Anne Douglas, LL.B graduate from Dundee University and Street Law trainer, explains all about the Law Society’s Street Law scheme
With a reputation of being dry and difficult to understand, the law is often seen as complicated and distant. So what is the Law Society of Scotland doing about it? Street Law.
Through a highly-participatory, interactive programme, the Street Law initiative places law students in high schools to teach school pupils about the law, the legal process and its principles.
I think Street Law is one of the Law Society’s greatest achievements to date and I want to tell you why:
As long as there are Street Law trainers available, we are always looking for classes to teach! Get in touch and find out if there are enough Street Law trainers in your area to set up a programme.
Street law doesn’t just benefit the school pupils who get a unique introduction to legal concepts and a solid foundation of what the law is about. It also allows Street Law trainers (who are themselves still students) to really think about the reasons why the law is the way it is, and then explain it to people with limited exposure to the law - an invaluable skill set should they choose to practice in the future.
I know, personally, that Street Law has given me confidence in my own understanding of the law and this is at the core of why Street Law works so well. As trainers, we plan lessons but ultimately it is the pupils who drive the debates, create the arguments and tailor each session to their own needs.
The law governs so many aspects of everyday life and Street Law lessons encapsulate that. As the classes are largely aimed at s4 and s5 pupils, my Street Law partner and I ran sessions based on employment law because many of our students were just getting their first part time jobs. We also planned a lesson about Stop and Search for those pupils starting their driving lessons.
Even if the pupils have absolutely no interest in pursuing a career in law, the lessons provide them with information they will use in their day to day lives.
Improving access to justice
More broadly, the programme is invaluable in promoting better access to justice. I have taught in schools with pupils of all capabilities and backgrounds, many of whom wouldn’t have had the opportunity to get to grips with some of the topics covered. It also helps pupils to experience a different side to the law with University students, not too far away from their own age, and a more open platform to really think about how the law relates to them.
After setting up a mock trial with school pupils at a legal careers open night, we got some really great feedback from the students who commented: “I have learned a lot about real life experiences of doing a law degree and has made me strongly want to apply for law” and “… gained more confidence in constructing an argument and learned a range of legal terminology that may be useful for my future.”
The future’s bright
With such positive reception from the schools that have taken part in the programme and word of mouth spreading the news to more law students, I can only see the programme getting more successful from here. Hopefully, it will provide the first step in the legal education of the next generation of Scottish solicitors.
Find out more about Street Law, how to sign up as a Street Law trainer and how your local schools can sign up at www.lawscot.org.uk/streetlaw