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Street Law shows the way

20 March 17

Report on a success for a Society training initiative, with an invitation for your further support

by Heather McKendrick, Rob Marrs

We recently attended the prestigious European Association Awards in Brussels and were thrilled when the Law Society of Scotland project Street Law won the Best Training Initiative Award.

Street Law is an education programme for pupils at Scottish schools in disadvantaged areas. It is a long-term investment in young people in Scotland and a demonstration of the profession’s commitment to diversity.

The Society’s strategic aims are to lead legal excellence and to be a world-class professional body, so for Street Law to be recognised and rewarded in an international context is fantastic.

It also aims to influence the creation of a fairer and more just society in Scotland and internationally. Street Law is a perfect example of how it is succeeding in meeting these aims. We hope that the debate and discussion which Street Law provokes in participating schools will lead young people to think about their role as citizens and how they can help to shape and contribute to society. It also allows the Society to collaborate across borders.

Street Law sounds simple because it is simple. We send trained law students into schools to teach practical law to pupils. Over a number of weeks those law students teach interactive lessons – some on crime, some on civil matters, some on matters of public policy. The students craft and design the lessons themselves. The feedback from schools has been universally positive.

There’s a lot more to it, though. All Street Lawyers go through an intensive training weekend, which brings together law students from each law school in Scotland. The training itself has been put together in a collaboration between Georgetown Law Clinic, Harvard Graduate School of Education, Penn State University, the Law Society of Ireland and ourselves. It is constantly being refined and improved. The programme is supported by three law firms: Pinsent Masons, CMS Cameron McKenna, and Ashurst.

So the lesson on stop and search at Govan High School, delivered by students from Glasgow University and Glasgow Caledonian University, is the product of collaboration between two professional bodies, three universities and three law firms. The pupils benefit, the students benefit, and in due course the profession benefits. The programme shows collaboration at its best.

What next? Simply, we want to see Street Law in many more schools in Scotland, particularly in Aberdeen, Dundee, Fife and Stirling. We’d also like to engage with schools in more rural locations if we can.

The Society also recently launched the Lawscot Foundation, a charity set up to support students from disadvantaged backgrounds entering the legal profession. Along with raising aspirations for young people through Street Law lessons, we are also committed to providing practical support, such as bursaries and mentors, which is what the Foundation will do. We would love to see the profession getting behind this initiative, to support the next generation of solicitors achieve an equal and diverse legal profession and ensure that truly talented young people have the opportunity to progress with their career ambitions.

Street Law has grown quickly since those five Glasgow schools took part in the first lesson back in 2014, and we have been similarly heartened by the many individuals wishing to support the Lawscot Foundation. It shows the future of the profession at its very best. Let’s build on it.

Heather McKendrick, head of Careers and Outreach and Rob Marrs, head of Education at the Law Society of Scotland.

More information

To find out more about the Lawscot Foundation, including how to donate, visit www.lawscotfoundation.org.uk

For further information on how to support the Lawscot Foundation and Street Law, including details of corporate sponsorship opportunities, please contact Heather McKendrick: heathermckendrick@lawscot.org.uk

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