National Law Students Forum 2011
22-23 June 2011
Following the successful pilot event in Manchester in November 2010, UKCLE staged a follow up National Law Students Forum in Birmingham in June 2011. The event was attended by 50 nominated law student representatives from university law schools throughout England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland, including some who had attended in November 2010. UKCLE was greatly assisted in this venture by a small group of students and academics who had formed a steering group after the November event.
Developing the themes from the previous event, the 2011 event aimed to:
- improve the way students engage with the staff student consultative procedure
- promote more effective representation of student views within their law schools
- demonstrate examples of good teaching practice, including skills development
- establish an organisational framework for a future National Law Students Forum.
The last point was of particular importance because the imminent closure of UKCLE meant that there would be no supporting organisation after July 2011.
The event was very successful with a highly engaging group of presenters and facilitators stimulating the students into contributing to much lively discussion. The students themselves were immensely enthusiastic and contributed to the general discussion on a range of topics with great passion. By lunchtime on the first day the participants had formed friendships and the room was buzzing with animated conversation and discussion.
The presentations were all very well received and the final, very noisy, session of the event resulted in a successful outcome with the formation of a committee tasked with taking things forward into the future. Preliminary feedback from the participants was very positive and the general conclusion of participants, presenters and facilitators alike was that this is a venture that must be sustained as an independent, student owned project in the future.
The event began with Sefton Bloxham (UKCLE), the event organiser, providing some background to the event, indicating the key issues (identified from feedback from the previous event) that would be addressed and ending by identifying three key themes for the event – engagement, empowerment and enjoyment! This was followed by an unforgettable ‘icebreaker’ session led by Rebecca Huxley-Binns (Nottingham Trent University), which set the tone for the remainder of the event.
After lunch, there were two parallel (both repeated) sessions. Victoria Passant (NUS Student Engagement Officer) talked about student engagement from an NUS perspective, encouraging students to get involved in local projects, and Linda Graham (Student Development Officer, University of Northumbria) talked about approaches to peer mentoring. Linda had participants sharing examples of good practice via a ‘brick in the wall’ display which remained on show for the duration of the event.
The parallel sessions were followed by an interactive session on mooting and communication skills, led by Rebecca Huxley-Binns, at which participants were able to exchange ideas on all aspects of mooting from organisation of competitions to advocacy skills for mooting.
The first day ended with a brief brainstorming session, facilitated by all the presenters, designed to prompt participants into thinking in more detail about the key issues that would need to be addressed at the final session on the following day, on the future of the National Law Students Forum. The dinner that evening then provided the perfect opportunity for participants to engage in further social networking, which they clearly did!
The second morning began rather gently (!) with a session, led by Sefton Bloxham, on shared student experiences of legal education. Discussion took place in small groups on issues of concern to students. A number of issues had been identified though responses to a questionnaire issued in advance of the event, but on the day each group was left to determine its own topic. Interestingly, most groups opted to talk with some passion about how to improve informal communications with law staff.
This was followed by a presentation on LLB student perceptions of assessment and feedback: Lessons from the National Students’ Survey by Lisa Webley (University of Westminster) which provoked further questions and discussion. After a break for refreshments, there followed two more parallel (both repeated) sessions. In one of these, Ben Fitzpatrick (University of York) led a participatory session on problem-based learning, drawing on his experience of developing the law programme at York, during which groups of students were confronted with a problem and asked to identify the legal issues involved. In the other parallel, Michael Bromby (Glasgow Caledonian University) spoke about simulated learning, introducing students to a range of ways in which simulations have been used within legal education, prompting some very interesting discussion around the respective merits of online and/or ‘real’ simulations. Michael was also tweeting throughout the event, updating followers and engaging with presenters and participants.
Planning for the future
After lunch, and much anticipation, Sefton Bloxham reminded participants of the question he had asked on the first morning – why are you all here? He stressed that if the Forum was to continue then it was in the hands of those present to grasp the nettle and establish an organisation for the future. Sefton introduced Clare Weaver (Oxford University Press) and Tom Laidlaw (LexisNexis), both of whom had been in attendance throughout the event. Both Clare and Tom welcomed the development of a student forum and indicated that both publishers may be willing to offer some form of financial support in the future. At this point, Sefton announced, to some looks of horror, that the presenters, facilitators and potential sponsors would be leaving the room and the student participants were to be left to form a new steering group/committee and establish an action plan for the future.
UKCLE has no record of what happened during the next hour or so, other than the fact that it was noisy, but at various stages individuals emerged for refreshment, reporting that “it’s getting a bit chaotic” and “it’s a bit like Lord of the Flies in there”. Finally, after about 90 minutes, the doors opened and the presenters were informed that “a committee has been formed”! There followed a brief plenary session in which the new committee identified themselves and pledged to set up a discussion forum for participants to continue the discussion of the key issues – a name, objectives, membership, structure, future activities, sustainability (resourcing). That discussion forum was set up the same evening and all participants at the event are encouraged to contribute to the discussion which will determine the future shape of the new organisation. The committee are:
- Nneka Agada (University of Hertfordshire)
- David Bannister (Anglia Ruskin University)
- John Bell (De Montfort University)
- Wade Clifton (University of Central Lancashire)
- Gabriella D’Isidoro (University of Salford)
- Phillip Jones (University of Glamorgan)
- Joshua Lintern (University of Plymouth)
- Dominika Malinowska (University of Bradford)
- Lauren Mercer (University of Exeter)
- Jeanette Mooney (Manchester Metropolitan University)
- Peter Shandley (University of Leicester)
- Elle Yates (Coventry University)
This was a highly successful event which appears to have been enjoyed by all participants and which has produced an outcome that exceeds the expectations of the organisers. UKCLE is confident that the new committee will succeed in establishing a new, independent, law student network which will, in time, be able to act as a ‘student voice’ for all law students.
UKCLE would like to thank the presenters and facilitators for the high quality and innovative nature of their sessions/presentations and the collaborative and supportive way in which they all worked together to make this such a successful event. Thanks are also due to the student and academic staff members of the steering group who helped organise this event. On behalf of all the participants, UKCLE would like to thank Oxford University Press for its support in sponsoring the reception on the first evening. UKCLE would also like to extend its thanks to Hansa Surti, our Events Organiser, for all her ‘back office’ work in ensuring this event was a success. Hansa, who has now left UKCLE, will be sorely missed and we wish her all the best in her new appointment.
We are indebted to all the student participants for the enthusiasm and good sense that they brought to the event and wish them every success in developing an independent national law student voice for the future.
Last Modified: 4 July 2011