Europe / Bringing the law to the classroom: the Law Society of Scotland reports on its award-winning Street Law project
In 2014, we published a major document called Fair Access to the Legal Profession. This looked at how we could ensure that all those who have the skills and the desire but perhaps not the financial wherewithal to consider a career in law could do so. Amongst 20 or so other recommendations the report noted that we could do more to promote the law in schools.
For many years, we ran the usual ‘’this is how you become a solicitor’’ events at schools but we wanted to do something more dynamic to show off what legal study (and in due course legal practice) might look like and to get young people actually thinking about the law and their place within it. We looked around the world to see how others were excelling at public legal education and became aware of Street Law. It so happened an intensive two-day training session was taking place in Dublin so I along with a colleague signed ourselves up and hopped on a plane. We were blown away by what we experienced and realised that Street Law was exactly what we wanted to introduce in Scotland as a new means of public legal education.
Street Law is a highly participative, highly interactive way of teaching law. Our first step was to identify some schools who might be interested: five schools in Glasgow came back positively and said they’d be part of a pilot. We then hired two of the world’s best Street Law trainers to come to Scotland to train twenty LLB students. These students did two-and-a-half days of intensive training on ‘’how to teach Street Law’’ which culminated in them having to come up with a short lesson that meets the three mantras of Street Law: Build capacity, build community, build belief.
In pairs, these law students then went into the schools in Glasgow and over six weeks they had to design, craft and deliver a lesson per week: some on crime, some on civil matters, and some on public policy. The feedback was universally positive. We genuinely couldn’t have written better ourselves. The schools told us that this sort of civic-minded, public legal education brought the law to life.
Since then we’ve expanded considerably. We’ve worked with schools across Scotland – around 50 of Scotland’s 400 or so state schools. We’ve taught 2,000 school pupils and trained over 200 Street Lawyer law students. This latter group is important – they hone skills important for their own professional development in the training and many return for numerous years to teach in schools, with those who then join the profession often becoming evangelists for Street Law among colleagues and contacts. We’ve collaborated with a global network of Street Lawyers and become a leading voice in that community – we routinely liaise with colleagues at Georgetown, Harvard, Penn State and the Law Society of Ireland. In recent months two of the staff team here at the Law Society of Scotland visited Amsterdam to train a number of Belgian and Dutch universities how to teach Street Law. Programmes have started in Brussels and Amsterdam already.
Street Law in Scotland has grown quickly since those first lessons in 2014 in five Glasgow schools. It is making a tangible difference. It shows the profession at its very best. We’d recommend it to any bar association globally and would be happy to discuss how we can help.
For further information please visit https://www.lawscot.org.uk/qualifying-and-education/our-work-with-schools/street-law/ or feel free to drop me a line at RobMarrs@lawscot.org.uk.
Rob Marrs, Head of Education