The Scottish University Law Clinic Network is an informal forum that allows students, staff and supporters involved with student law clinics in Scotland to share information and best practice with each other.
I can now add a Storify of proceedings at a workshop at Glasgow Caledonian University held on 8 June 2016 to those resources.
As noted there, two parallel sessions took place: the first on the choices and variables faced by clinics as they try to maximise community impact; and the second on Street Law. It seems to be have been a useful day for delegates and I hope the Storify shares that usefulness with those who could not attend.
Professor Donald Nicolson OBE of the University of Strathclyde led one of those sessions. Donald has been a – possibly the – key player in the clinical movement in Scotland, drawing on his experiences of law clinics in South Africa and England and Wales. He has also been a key player in my involvement with law clinics: not least as I was an undergraduate student when he established the University of Strathclyde Law Clinic, but also in his support after graduation (whether commenting on a draft article that subsequently became an article in The Law Teacher (£ – open access version here) on clinical legal education or helping with course materials for my third year “Clinical Legal Studies” course).
With that backdrop, it goes without saying I rate his views. I enjoyed his paper and related presentation at Glasgow Caledonian University, but that was not his only contribution to the day. He also suggested SULCN was in danger of drifting somewhat. His suggestion to combat that drift was to have one Chair, rather than the rotation between the universities that has happened to date. His final suggestion was that that Chair should be me.
I could not really object, could I? Fortunately, no-one at GCU objected either.
The informal nature of SULCN has already been alluded to. It has been simultaneously a blessing and a curse, in that it allows individual universities and law clinics to get on with what they want without worrying about procedures or anything like that, but it has also led to that drift Donald mentioned and questions about what role SULCN should have. There is also the question of what form SULCN should have: for a number of years I have dabbled with the idea of incorporating SULCN as a SCIO (a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation). This has not happened for various reasons, most notably because SULCN has never handled any cash directly. This all leads to a question of what exactly I am now Chair of. (Answers on a postcard or a blog comment please.) (Tangentially, I note the nearest English and Welsh equivalent to SULCN – the Clinical Legal Education Organisation – is a relatively young “charitable incorporated organisation”.)
Side-stepping that question of incorporation and form, the real question is what should SULCN do next.
I think the summary of SULCN’s output to date can be summed up as follows:
- Five events across Scotland (Paisley, Glasgow (Strathclyde), Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Glasgow (Caledonian));
- a Twitter feed that publicises what law clinics are up to individually and shares interest stories (which has been operated by me for a number of years anyway, so no change there);
- occasional referrals and information sharing across Scotland’s law clinics.
What more could SULCN do?
Might a bigger online presence, perhaps some sort of advice bank, be worth looking into? Or is the internet saturated, and should SULCN be looking elsewhere?
Could SULCN facilitate student work with third sector or community groups across Scotland who are unable to access affordable legal advice or support?
Or is there something else we could do?
I would like to hear from people about that, whether you are a student, an academic involved in law clinics, a lawyer, someone involved with any other advice agencies, or indeed someone who has very little idea what law clinics are or do. In fact, I would especially like to hear from you if you are in that latter camp.