Ten signs it’s time to stop and ask for help: guest post by Lucy Reed

This is a guest post from Lucy Reed, a barrister with who blogs at Pink Tape and tweets as @familoo. Anyone a) vaguely legal or b) generally interested in life should really be following her anyway, but just in case you do not this is how she describes herself on Twitter.

Family lawyer & blogger . Ovaries of steel, abs of jelly. Author Chair .

I am delighted she has shared this post with me and I don’t want to get in the way of it with a long introduction. I will quickly note how this blog post came about though.

A few weeks ago there was some publicity in England & Wales about McKenzie friends – legally unqualified buddies who provide support but not legal advice to people in court – and specifically student and remunerated McKenzies. The blogs Nearly Legal (by Giles Peaker) and Lawyer Watch (normally by Professor Richard Moorhead, but in this case a guest post by Dr Leanne Smith) posted about this topic. Lucy posted about it too. I recommend all those posts. I watched this unfold from a safe Scottish distance, although I did wonder if there might be a slight amount of collateral damage to some student pro bono activity, a topic and a cause I have an interest in. I also wondered if there might be some good that could come out of this, namely an opportunity to remind students, junior practitioners, McKenzies, or whoever that there can be times when you have bitten off more than you can chew. It is important both to minimise those situations and know how to react to them when they arise. I asked Lucy if she might offer her wisdom on the topic and she agreed. Over to Lucy to explain.

(For Scottish readers, I have added a couple of footnotes to give the Scots law equivalents when English examples are given.)

Ten signs it’s time to stop and ask for help

To survive as a law student or newly qualified lawyer you have to project confidence even if you don’t feel confident all of the time. But it’s important never to forget the value of humility. Humility protects you against career ending errors.

Being a cocky little wotsit may be a good short term coping strategy, but not if it leads you into making some daft mistake which will have ripple effects for your career and your client’s life. It’s far better to ask a colleague, your supervisor or senior for help when it turns out you didn’t really need it than to wing it and have to go to them after it’s all gone pear shaped.

I’m assuming here that you are a law student doing pro bono / clinic work or a newly qualified lawyer being let loose on stuff you may have seen but haven’t done before.

So. When do I need to pause and ask for help?

  1. When you’re starting out, pretty much everything will be unfamiliar territory. Those things that are almost like the scenario in the text book but not quite – those are gonna trip you up. ASK.
  2. When your client asks you a question you don’t know the answer to. It’s ok to say “I need to check the answer to that”. Have your phone a friend on speed dial. DO NOT WING IT.
  3. When the judge asks you a question you don’t know the answer to. It’s ok to say “I need to check the answer to that – may I have five minutes?” or “May I come back to you after the luncheon adjournment?”. Have your phone a friend on speed dial. DO NOT WING IT. (Hint – the judge knows you are inexperienced. The judge was in your shoes once. Most judges will cut you some slack.)
  4. When there is something you really didn’t get in law school and you glossed over it and fortunately it didn’t come up in the exam and… all of a sudden you’re confronted with it – NOW you gotta confess all and ASK. (Mine was the difference between tenants in common and joint tenants*. And basically the whole of the law of equity. Don’t tell anyone.)
  5. When you’ve flip flopped more than once on the right answer to something. TALK IT THROUGH WITH A COLLEAGUE.
  6. If it’s outside your usual field – ASK.
  7. Student / pro bono schemes: if it’s outside the parameters of the scheme you are operating under. It’s not just okay to say, “this is not within the scheme.” It’s a must. You are probably running under someone else’s insurance. If it’s not within the scope of the scheme that is for a reason. Don’t be an idiot. CHECK WITH YOUR SUPERVISOR.
  8. When you find yourself thinking “this would be an amazing case to have on my CV! I could take it all the way to the Court of Appeal**”… STOP. Talk it through with someone who has been doing it for more than five minutes. You don’t get any glory for crashing and burning in the Court of Appeal. The exciting prospect of a “big case” can wreck your objectivity.
  9. If your case depends on overturning a Court of Appeal or Supreme Court / House of Lords authority – you might be right. But check with someone more experienced.
  10. If you have a nasty sicky feeling in the pit of your stomach that you are out of your depth – you might be right. Or you might just be a really fantastic young lawyer with a smidge of imposter syndrome. But you don’t know until you check. SO CHECK.

Here’s the thing. I’m fifteen years call. They call me a senior junior. I still get that sick feeling in my stomach sometimes. I ask for help or a double check from colleagues all the time. Sometimes from contemporaries, and sometimes from those more senior than me. A good lawyer is open to the idea that they might be missing something, that there might be another way to approach a problem, and can see the value of a fresh pair of eyes. Phone a friend saved me from many scrapes as a junior barrister – use it. And never be ashamed to be smart enough to ask others what they think.

If you’re reading this and think it’s rubbish and it doesn’t apply to you: it does. Come back and read it again in 5, 10 years time and consider this: I told you so.

Lucy Reed

[SCOTTISH FOOTNOTES

*Tenancies and common and joint tenancies roughly equate to the Scots law categorisations of common property and joint property. As for equity in general, good luck with that…

** For Court of Appeal, that would equate to the Scottish Court of Session.]

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A visit to Stellenbosch Legal Aid Clinic

As mentioned on this blog previously, I am on research leave at the moment. This has taken me to Stellenbosch in South Africa. There are a few reasons why Stellenbosch has been my appointed destination, mostly to do with land law and specifically land law reform: thanks again to the Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland for providing funding for this research trip. I hope it, and my readership, will forgive me for a dalliance in another interest: student law clinics. At the same time as having lots of interesting land matters to keep me occupied, the University of Stellenbosch has a long-established Legal Aid Clinic. Since I was in the area, I arranged to visit.

The Legal Aid Clinic, or Regshulpkliniek in Afrikaans, is very different to the law clinics I have visited before. That point was aptly demonstrated by the fact the receptionist greeted me in Afrikaans. It actually took me a moment to twig she was speaking to me, as another thing that I was busy taking in was that the reception area was rather busy (with the adminstrator, case workers and a client all buzzing around the reception desk), but when I did realise I answered in English and the receptionist switched to that language. Later, whilst I was waiting for one of the clinicians based at the Clinic to greet me (having for once in my life arrived early for an appointment), there was a moment when the client was struggling to understand the instructions that were being given to him. I suspect such language issues prevail in South Africa more than they do in Scotland: after all, there are eleven official languages in South Africa, not to mention contemporary immigration from other parts of Africa. The staff and/or volunteers (I am not sure of the exact staff/volunteer mix that I was witness to) handled the issue as adeptly as they could.

I then met one of the team of staff working at the Clinic, whose enthusiasm for all matters clinical legal education shone through. In fact (and I am not just saying this) he told me he had read and referred to my article ‘Selling Intra-Curricular Clinical Legal Education’, and it was gratifying to know my that work had been useful to someone else and indeed somewhere else. My article had apparently a certain relevance to do with the possible introduction of a third-year compulsory module that would involve practical work: some simulated, some clinical. I will keep my eyes open for developments surrounding that and blog about developments in that regard when it is possible to do so.

We also spoke about the organisation and the day to day running of the clinic. Apparently there was a staff of around 15 (which is more of a staff than any of the Scottish law clinics), including paralegals and qualified solicitors. The building itself – a relatively short walk from the School of Law – was dedicated to the law clinic. I was also shown the sign-in sheet for the month of April: something like 100 clients had called on the clinic between 1 and 25 April.

Perhaps I should take a moment to pretend I understand the situation in South Africa as regards access to justice. Whilst I am an outsider to the situation in South Africa, there are a few South Africans who have already given me something of an insight. In fact, one South African in particular is somewhat to blame for my ongoing interest in pro bono work, namely Professor Donald Nicolson. Yes, his name does appear somewhat Scottish, but he is a South African who founded the University of Strathclyde Law Clinic when I was an undergraduate. I have a rough recollection of his stories of the somewhat unregulated clinics that sprung up in the second half of the 20th century in South Africa, and my understanding is that Stellenbosch’s Legal Aid Clinic started off as students doing their own thing before coming under the supervision and banner of the University. I also have a rough recollection of Donald telling us about the nature and volume of cases South African law clinics had to contend with, which I suppose can be best explained by reference to a recent article in the International Journal of Clinical Legal Education by the man himself: ‘“Our roots began in (South) Africa”: Modelling law clinics to maximise social justice ends’.

Mention must also be made of the legendary Street Lawyer, Professor David McQuoid-Mason, another suspiciously Scottish-sounding South African. David has been a great friend of the Scottish University Law Clinic Network (for example, attending events in 2013 and 2014) and I recall his stories of the huge classes of law students he trained in Street Law teaching or the inquisitive children he taught through Street Law.

Lastly, I should acknowledge the two South Africans who Skyped into the Scottish University Law Clinic Network conference in 2015, who gave insights into pro bono public interest litigation. One particular case they spoke of was in connection with obtaining access to HIV retrovirals for expectant mothers, a tremendous achievement and again an example of the kind of things where there are access to justice issues in South Africa. And it is not just access to justice or indeed access to medication that are issues, it is also access to the civil, political, cultural, economic and social rights that I am guilty of taking for granted. This is a nation that ‘is home to the biggest inequality gap in the world’.  That media statement I have just linked to is from the Nelson Mandela Foundation, issued on Freedom Day. Freedom Day commemorates the first fully democratic elections in South Africa, which happened on this day in 1994. That was a watershed moment, but it was not a magic wand that fixed everything.

So what can I learn from this visit to a South African law clinic, and South Africa in general?

First, there are teaching lessons, in terms of comparing and contrasting course offerings. Aberdeen at the moment offers an elective (non-compulsory) third-year course, whereas Stellenbosch could be moving towards that compulsory offering by way of a third year module incorporating the clinic. That said, a direct lesson is instantly qualified by the fact that South Africa does not have the same vocational training phase as Scotland has (via the Diploma in Professional Legal Practice), which is a reason why a compulsory practical skills course could be extra suitable in South African law schools. Meanwhile, Aberdeen might be moving towards offering a Diploma elective in clinical legal practice, but there is no direct lesson for me from Stellenbosch.

Second, there are organisational and practical lessons, in terms of comparing and contrasting the Stellenbosch model and indeed the scale. If the Aberdeen Law Project – the student-led pro bono initiative based at the University of Aberdeen – was to try to upscale in such a way, this would require serious consideration as regards supervision and accommodation. Plus, it would be wrong to upscale just for the sake of it: I have not undertaken any comparison of legal aid in Scotland and South Africa, so I do not have a fully formed idea how much of a comparative gap there is to plug as between the two jurisdictions (but I do note there is a co-operation agreement between Legal Aid South Africa and a number of universities, including Stellenbosch).

As such, there might be some take-home lessons for me. Although perhaps the main take-home lesson is that there is a squad of committed staff and students at Stellenbosch trying to make a difference, for the public good. Good luck to them.

One final thought: amidst all the other stuff we spoke about, the clinician I spoke to asked me about the official reason I was in South Africa, namely to research land law reform. The key question for that South African, who has day to day experience of fighting evictions for indigent persons using devices like the Extension of Security of Tenure Act 62 of 1997 (in rural and peri-urban areas) and the  Prevention of Illegal Eviction from and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act 19 of 1998 (in urban areas), was as follows: why are you land reforming in Scotland? I began my usual exposition, but as I was explaining I could not help but reflect on the size of the township I passed between Cape Town and Stellenbosch, and in turn reflect on the huge issues that post-Apartheid South Africa still has to contend with. That media statement of the Nelson Mandela Foundation highlights that ‘an estimated 200,000 people have no homes to go to’. Even the airport which I landed at is faced with its on land question. For fear of making any glib comparisons, I will leave the topic of access to land in Scotland and South Africa hanging for now, but that is something I will return to.

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Land Rights and Land Responsibilities: An Audience with the Chair of the new Scottish Land Commission

The University of Aberdeen’s May Festival 2017 runs from 26 to 28 May.

I am delighted to be playing a part in a free event on Friday 26 May at 14:30, which is explained as follows.

In one of the first public events of the new Scottish Land Commission, its Chair Andrew Thin will introduce the Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement.

Analysing what it and the new Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016 mean for the management, use and regulation of land in Scotland.  The discussion will be opened up to an expert panel, led by Malcolm Combe.

Ticket Price: FREE/Booking Required

Venue: King’s Conference Centre

This will look at land reform in Scotland, with a special focus on the land rights and responsibilities statement (which I blogged about here). I will welcome Andrew Thin, the Chair of the Scottish Land Commission. This is a Non-Parliamentary Departmental Body (a “quango”, in old money) established by the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016, which has been operational since 1 April 2017. Mr Thin will give us his take on the new organisation before being joined by an expert panel comprising Andrew McCornick (the President of NFU Scotland), Annie McKee (of the James Hutton Institute) and Anne-Michelle Slater (who happens to be my Head of School, but also a worthy panellist in her own right).

I am hoping to attract as diverse an audience as possible. Those involved explicitly with the discussions should bring something for: the lawyers (me); those with sectoral interests (I suppose most specifically agriculture, but other sectors by analogy, via Andrew McCornick); geographers (via Annie McKee); and planners (via Anne-Michelle Slater). If those topics do not pique your interest, audience participation will of course be encouraged, and as such do come along with your own questions on whatever you think is relevant to Scotland’s land. If you cannot make it on the day, please consider commenting below with a question, and I can use such questions at the event in the (I think unlikely) event that discussion stalls.

You can book for free online here.

 

 

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Review of Legislation Governing Small Landholdings in Scotland

Some of my research interests and related blog posts are somewhat niche. True to form, here is a short post about an esoteric part of Scottish land law. Actually, now that I think about it, it might be a bit generous to describe the topic of this blog post as niche, but here goes…

This post is about small landholdings in Scotland. These are a type* of rural lease that:

  1. can be found outwith the traditional crofting counties (of the Highlands and Islands); and
  2. are not governed by the agricultural holding** regime.

The statutory system of crofting was introduced to parts of Scotland by legislation passed in 1886, but the rest of Scotland had to wait until 1911 before its smallholdings were subjected to similar, and rather powerful, statutory control. (The effect of this gap in time is something I have blogged about before.)

The regulation introduced related to matters like compensation for improvements (namely what a landlord would have to pay a tenant for any works introduced by the tenant) and security of tenure (meaning the ability of a tenant to hang around on land even at the end of the original term of a lease, provided rent was being paid and other obligations complied with).

For a variety of reasons, there are not that many of these regulated leases still kicking around. Notwithstanding that relatively low number – which seems to be settled at 74 (yes, seventy-four) – there has been a perception that these leases have been ignored when other leases have not. In part, any neglect is ably demonstrated by the mass of legislation about crofting and agricultural holdings, but of course the low numbers of small landholdings also explains that lack of legislative attention. That point notwithstanding, it may be the case that parties to such leases do not have a particularly clear handle on what arrangement they have, not to mention there are arguments about whether these parties have an arrangement that is suitable for the present day, and as such it is a worthwhile exercise to have a look at small landholdings.

Enter Part 11 of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016. This was the result of a Scottish Green Party amendment at Stage 3 of the then bill, which I blogged and tweeted about at the time. This committed Scottish Ministers to: a) review the legislation governing small landholdings; and b) lay a report of that review before the Scottish Parliament no later than 31 March 2017. This the Scottish Ministers have done. The Report can be found here (PDF here).

The Report is an impressive piece of work. I declare an interest, in that I had some limited input to it: a couple of drafts were circulated to me and I commented on them. To be clear though, I declare that interest to give the credit to those that deserve it, and that is decidedly not me. A lot of people inputted to this document, and of course those directly affected by the proposals (the landlords and tenants) provided data for the exercise, so any credit is due to them. This blog post has skimmed over some of the details about small landholdings, whereas the Report goes into the background, the current regime, and the potential for the future in far more detail than I can here. I will offer a few quick thoughts on its interpretation of the future though, to highlight that it narrows down three options, namely:

the status quo;

conversion to another type of tenancy; or

reform and modernisation.

The Report then suggests two of them are not appropriate, as: maintaining the status quo would lead to further diminution of numbers of small landholdings (with unclear effects on rural Scotland); whilst mass conversion of small landholdings into another type of tenancy is just not quite suitable (as, for example, you could end up with crofts outside traditional and even recently expanded crofting areas, not to mention it could have an uncertain effect on already settled positions between landlord and tenant).

That leaves the reform and modernise option. Much could be said about this, but the two key issues that came up in consultation with respondents related to clarity of legislation (which is a bit of a bùrach across many statutes at present) and a right to buy: irrespective of the undeniable politics of a right to buy, it is clear that small landholdings missed out on such rights in 1976 (when an absolute right to buy was conferred on crofters) and 2003 (when a right of first refusal was given to secure “1991 Act” tenants of an agricultural holding).

What next? Naturally, the Scottish Parliament will get the chance to ponder the Report, but paragraph 170 of the Report sets a number of future steps. Some of these might involve the Scottish Law Commission, the new Tenant Farming Commissioner, and the Crofting Commission. Other steps could involve researchers looking into historical data and trends relating to small landholdings, and (either related to that historical research or independently) the likely socio-economic impact of them in the present day.

To conclude, despite the relatively low numbers of small landholdings in Scotland, there is a lot of work to be done in relation to them. I will be watching carefully to see what happens next. Meanwhile, those involved with Scotland’s remaing small landholdings will be watching even more carefully than me.


*The Small Landholders (Scotland) Act 1911 actually introduced two different regimes, where someone who rented a smallholding could be a “landholder” or a “statutory small tenant”, depending on whether it was the landlord or the tenant who had built the structures used for that smallholding. Generally speaking, a statutory small tenant has less in the way of statutory rights than a landholder.

** Agricultural holding used to be the best term to use for that regulated form of lease that prevailed across much of Scottish agriculture, but Lord Gill’s new book on the matter has – after three editions of being called The Law of Agricultural Holdings in Scotland – changed its name to Agricultural Tenancies, to reflect the various other ways people have been able to let land in rural Scotland since the Agricultural Holdings (Scotland) Act 2003 came into force (with more methods still being provided for by Part 10 of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016). Whilst I have no problem with that title (and if I did, I would have mentioned it in my recent Scots Law Times review of the book), I fear the term “agricultural tenancies” in this blog post could cause confusion to some readers. Much like this helpful explanatory note probably has. Sorry.

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Some thoughts on: Common Good Property and Funds; and Community Engagement

On 8 February 2017 The Local Government and Communities Committee of the Scottish Parliament launched a call for written evidence in relation to “common good property and funds”. This closed on Wednesday 22 March 2017 and the 18 responses it garnered can be found here.

I did not put in an individual response. I had a very small role in relation to the response (PDF) put in by the Law Society of Scotland (and my role really was very small – the draft response was passed to me in advance for comment and I offered a couple of thoughts, but the draft was largely unchanged at submission). Of the other responses, the joint response (PDF) by Fife Council and the Society of Local Authority Lawyers and Administrators in Scotland deserves a special mention, penned as it was by Andrew Ferguson (the author of the core text in this area). I also enjoyed Neil King’s response, which he has posted on his blog.

One of the points I did ponder that did not quite make it into the Law Society of Scotland’s response related to access to justice, especially as community instigated challenges in this area might (as the law stands) face the hurdle of judicial review at the Court of Session. There are cost and Edinburgh-centric issues in raising such an action, which could be as much of a headache for some communities as any quirky common good issues (say uncertainty around disposal conditions relating to items of property) would be. Where an environmental angle could be found, perhaps in a situation where the use of sensitive land was at issue, communities might be able to shoehorn into the Aarhus Convention side of things, but otherwise communities would need to consider potentially hefty legal bills for probing legitimate issues. I am happy to note that these points have been developed a little in the Fife/SOLAR response by Andrew Ferguson that I have already referred to.

What comes next? I suppose we wait to see what the Committee says. In the meantime,  a Scottish Government consultation which has opened today, this time triggered by Part 4 of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016,  is of more than passing interest.

Section 44 of that legislation is about “engaging communities in decisions relating to land”. This related consultation exercise will, in due course, frame guidance that is to be issued about “the circumstances in which persons with control over land (for example, owners and occupiers) should carry out community engagement”. There is no carve out for local authorities, so the guidance as to engagement that should be undertaken in terms of the 2016 Act will run alongside any other duties a local authority owner of common good property will find itself under (in terms of section 104 of the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015). Mind you, it should be stressed that this new guidance will be for all persons with control over land. As such, the responses to that consultation, and the Government’s response to those responses, will be of more than niche interest.

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The Scottish University Law Clinic Network: 2017 Update

As some readers of my blog will have noticed, I am involved with an initative called the Scottish University Law Clinic Network. SULCN, as explained elsewhere, is designed to bring together those involved in “pro bono” (see below) legal activity across the Scottish universities. Its next event will be on 7 June at Glasgow Caledonian University. The programme is under development and is coming together nicely. You can read a bit more about participants here, including: legal commentator and GCU lecturer Andrew Tickell (aka Peat Worrier); and the law firm Blackadders.

Throughout my involvement with student pro bono work, Scottish Legal News has been a supporter and follower of the individual law clinics and any joint activities that have been undertaken. I am pleased and grateful that this has continued in the recent Scottish Legal News Annual 2017, a hard copy publication that is also available online here.

At page 84 of the Annual you will find an article by and about Strathclyde Law Clinic.

At page 86 of the Annual you will find an article by me about SULCN.

With the permission of Scottish Legal News, I have extracted the text of that article below. Please do have a look and, as ever, let me know what you think or if you have any suggestions.

Before setting that article out, I will take advantage of this blogging platform to set out a bit more about what SULCN has been up to. I explained in an earlier post that SULCN’s activities could be roughly boiled down to:

  • Five events across Scotland (see below);
  • a Twitter feed that publicises what law clinics are up to individually and shares interest stories;
  • occasional referrals and information sharing across Scotland’s law clinics.

To that I can add one recent activity, which I will tantalise readers with then not say much about, which was co-ordinating a clinic-wide response to a regulatory matter.

To engage in some reflection, which is something I encourage my students (and particularly clinical students) to do, it might be the case that all of these things could have been achieved without the SULCN brand. That may be so, but I do think it has been a useful vehicle for meeting people at other universities and beyond. How useful is impossible to quantify. SULCN does not maintain a running total of monies won or saved for clients, or record what clinics have done after discussions with others in the sector. What is clear is it has: engendered collegiality amongst the university communities; proven to be a useful conduit for communications; and given a focal point for brainstorming and publicity through its annual conference.

Without further ado, here is the article that I wrote for Scottish Legal News.

Scottish Legal News Extract

The Scottish University Law Clinic Network (SULCN) is an initiative that brings together, and raises awareness of, student law clinics in Scotland. It was developed by law students and launched at the University of the West of Scotland in 2012. Since then it has held conferences at the universities of Strathclyde (2013), Edinburgh (2014), Aberdeen (2015) and Glasgow Caledonian (2016).

Readers of Scottish Legal News are likely to be aware of law clinics: some may have volunteered for them as students or as qualified supervisors. Law clinics across Scotland use the enthusiasm and skills of law students, supported by academic staff or other supervisors, to make an impact in their local communities “pro bono publico” (for the public good). They address access to justice problems across society in a variety of ways, including:

  • advice and (where possible) assistance to resolve legal problems where alternative support is not available, such as when someone is not eligible for legal aid but is not otherwise able to afford professional legal advice;
  • public legal education to allow people to help recognise when they have a problem with a legal solution, gain the knowledge to resolve their own problems or (ideally) to avoid a legal problem in the first place;
  • campaigning for appropriate law reform where the legal system creates barriers to accessible and fair legal solutions; and
  • introducing law students to issues of social justice and ethics early in their educational development, in the hope that they will take a commitment to social justice and high legal standards forward into their legal careers. 

Whilst students and staff do all they can to assist, they are aware of their role and limitations and are willing to work with alternative support services and the pro bono arms of the profession. The educational stage of the students also means any support or training offered will be given subject to a suitable disclaimer about that educational stage. Clinics operating on this basis will balance a number of potentially competing considerations, and in so doing allow students to make a positive (if incremental) difference to access to justice in their local community, whilst engaging in professional and ethical development, all in a manner that should not impose on qualified practitioners trying to make a living.

The law clinic landscape in Scotland is such that these services are offered at a local level, centred in the cities of Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen (where clinics currently operate), though some law clinics now offer online services in order to spread their geographical reach. SULCN does not involve itself directly with those activities, but it provides a forum to share and showcase ideas amongst like-minded students, academics and supporters. It also supports the establishment of new law clinics where that is appropriate and helps existing clinics make decisions about future directions and activities. All clinics are faced with different circumstances and choices, and SULCN members engage in research and organise events to help law clinics best adapt to those circumstances and make appropriate choices. In fact, those themes were discussed at the conference at Glasgow Caledonian University on 8 June 2016. Those, and more, themes will be returned to when SULCN returns to Glasgow Caledonian University for its sixth annual conference on Wednesday 7 June. There are also plans afoot for a “hackathon”, to develop novel solutions to access to justice problems in society.

If any of this is of interest to you, please do get in touch. The current Chair of SULCN is Malcolm Combe (of the University of Aberdeen), who can be reached at m.m.combe@abdn.ac.uk. The network is on Twitter at @SULCN and online at http://www.abdn.ac.uk/law/research/the-scottish-university-law-clinic-network-546.php

SULCN logo

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Brexit and #indyref2: now what?

If there is one thing Scotland does not need today, it is another hot take on First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s #indyref2 announcement. As such, I will keep this post short.

The speech by Sturgeon today, in both tone and content, was something I found difficult to fault. Now, as a Yes voter in 2014 and Remain voter in 2016, I would say that, wouldn’t I? Probably. Standing that, it did chime with much of what I wrote about #indyref2 earlier this year, and the trigger event for this referendum is one I wrote about in the aftermath of the 2014 referendum.

There are, of course, a few questions to resolve. In no particular order, and non-exhaustively, I offer:

  1. What are the legal and political ramifications of whether or when Theresa May’s UK Government will consent to a referendum, after the inevitability of Holyrood mathematics pushes #indyref2 through the Scottish Parliament?
  2. When exactly in the Brexit process will the referendum fall? (In another episode of life imitating art, the satirical website The Daily Mash summed up the optimum scenario for Scottish independence pretty accurately.)
  3. What will the #indyref2 franchise be?

Bodyswerving the known unknowns in my question 1 for now, I will offer a combined observation on questions 2 and 3.

Having a referendum before Scotland leaves the EU strikes me as not only important to open up the opportunity of Scotland (in effect) never leaving the EU, but it is also pretty important for reasons connected with the referendum franchise. EU citizens (and, for that matter, 16- and 17-year-olds) were able to vote in the 2014 indyref but not* the 2016 EUref. The electorate in Scotland was still 62% Remain notwithstanding that exclusion. If that voting bloc is included in a plebiscite which: a) determines whether the place where they live stays in a political union they identify with; and b) offers a chance to express an opinion that the 2016 EUref did not, one can but imagine which way such a bloc would incline. (I would love to see some polling data on this.) For what it is worth, and for reasons explained by my colleague Dr Heather Green better than I can (under the heading “Comment“), I am all for those in this voting bloc having a say in a decision affecting the place they call home.

That is my tuppence worth. Assuming that the tuppence is the currency we will be using, of course.

*Not all EU citizens were excluded. Irish, Cypriot and Maltese citizens were able to vote on grounds unconnected to EU citizenship.

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