Professor Suzanne Rab, OU Law Associate Lecturer, finalist for Inspirational Women in Law Awards

Professor Suzanne Rab OU Law Associate lecturer has been selected as one of the six finalists for the Inspirational Women in Law Awards, in the Barrister of the Year category.

Further information on the Celebrating 100 Women in Law initiative can be found here:

The award ceremony was held on the 19th November at 5pm at County Hall, Belvedere Road, SE1 7GP. 


OU Associate Lecturer Professor Suzanne Rab combiners her role as an Associate Lecturer with the OU (on W102 and W330) with working full time as a barrister at Serle Court Chambers in London, being Professor of Commercial Law and Practice Chair at Brunel University and serving as a non-executive Board member of the Legal Aid Agency which dispenses civil and criminal legal aid.  

 When asked what it means to be a role model Suzanne Rab said:

“We all need to have big dreams.  To realise these aspirations, we need role models or someone we aspire to be like, or who can motivate us.  The greatest advancements for human beings have been framed in terms of reaching to the sky and having dreams and Martin Luther King as a role model comes to mind. 

 A role model does not need to be a public figure.  My father remains my greatest inspiration and role model.  As a child I saw him juggling two jobs, in the mornings as an accountant and in the evenings as a factory-hand, making fibre-glass baths.  He inspired me to pursue what he regarded as a ‘noble’ profession – the practice of law.  It was synonymous with making a difference; with changing things for the better for ordinary people; and with giving a voice to those who cannot or cannot afford to speak in their own cause.  I knew him only for a short while since he passed away when I was eight years old but his encouragement that I would one day become a barrister proved strangely prophetic.

There are challenges to confront in terms of access to and progression through the legal profession.  It is very competitive.  You have to distinguish yourself from others who are equally well qualified.  People who have navigated these challenges have a real responsibility in not forgetting where they came from and inspiring the next generation.  They can be good role models. 

My work ethic has been instilled in me from my parents and educators.  I see many people who are talented but they gave up along the way.  Role models encourage people to not give up. They provide an exemplar of how to be the best you can be.”






Privacy, misinformation and competition in the social media age – Professor Suzanne Rab, OU Law Associate Lecturer, interviewed by BBC

National pro bono week  2019 provides a great opportunity to celebrate the depth and breadth of the public engagement projects developed by the Open Justice Centre. Applied technology is often at the heart of these projects. Our Digital Justice project is working to harness the potential of smartphone technology for public legal information purposes, our Open Justice Advice Clinic provides access to online legal advice and the law on social media use is often a popular topic in our Street Law programme.

OU Associate Lecturer Professor Suzanne Rab is often asked to comment on legal aspects of technologies such as social media. Suzanne combiners her role as an Associate Lecturer with the OU (on W102 and W330) with working full time as a barrister at Serle Court Chambers in London, being Professor of Commercial Law and Practice Chair at Brunel University and serving as a non-executive Board member of the Legal Aid Agency which dispenses civil and criminal legal aid.   

She was recently asked by the BBC to comment on the issue of whether existing regulation is adequate to make social media companies take more responsibility against a background of  concerns over privacy, misinformation and competition.

She said that,

‘In the wake of Facebook’s latest results announcement, it is clear that negative publicity and regulatory attention has not affected its growth, whether in terms of subscriber numbers, revenues or profits. 

The truth is that even though comparisons have been made with monopolies of the past, the world has not yet seen anything quite like the social media phenomenon where Facebook alone interacts with one in three people across the globe.  This has prompted calls for tougher regulation and even break-up.  However, passing laws to make social media companies police the internet brings with it other concerns.  Let’s not be deluded that any law that orders a company to remove unacceptable content will face objections from proponents of free speech. Where the court making the judgment is from a country where the rule of law is cherished, we might not object.   But that cannot be said of all regimes globally who want to take proactive steps to counter what they perceive is objectionable content.’

Please click here for a link to the full interview broadcast on BBC Business News on 31 October 2019.

Another half century: Hong Kong Law School at 50 by Francine Ryan

Francine Ryan reports on her experience of being invited to address an international legal education conference celebrating 50 years of HK Law School

The Open University isn’t alone in marking its 50 year anniversary. Hong Kong Law School has reached the same milestone and, to celebrate, they organised an international conference exploring cutting edge approaches to legal education from around the world. The conference was titled Experiential Learning and Innovations in Legal Education and provided a platform for academics working to shape the future of legal education, to share ideas and develop new projects.

The Open Justice Centre is gaining an international reputation for using technology to provide innovative ways of embedding experiential learning into the legal curriculum. In recognition of this, I was invited to  take part in the conference and present my empirical research findings on the impact of our award-winning online advice clinic.

The conference focused on the importance of encouraging students to ‘learn by doing’ through embedding learning within real-world contexts. It showcased the growing number of innovative projects being developed that are responding to the disruption brought about by rapid technological change.  The conference discussed how law schools are facilitating the development of practical legal activities to help students gain knowledge of the law, but also understand how the law works in practice and in doing so encouraging students to help real people with real legal problems.

The shift from the physical space to the virtual space is impacting on the delivery of legal services. In my presentation,  I shared how The Open University is pioneering the use of technology through the development of the Open Justice ‘virtual’ clinic. The advancement of technology is going to require workers to have new skills and capabilities to respond to new models of working. The Institute for the Future argues all future workers will require technological competence and the ability to work as part of a virtual team. The clinic offers students the opportunity to become familiar with using technology and learn how to collaborate online. Working in the clinic helps students develop the knowledge and skills required in a digital age.

But the clinic goes beyond helping our students develop the skills required for modern legal practice, it serves to build a bridge between law students and their communities to support legal empowerment, by helping clients to know, and use the law to resolve their problems. In the clinic, students have the opportunity to engage with complex legal problems and access to justice issues. The clinic serves a ‘virtual’ community empowering anyone with an internet connection to access the clinic. The clinic uses technology as a transformative tool to reach those clients who are unable to access to legal advice because they cannot attend face to face legal clinics.

The conference showcased how universities across the world are engaging in developing practical pro bono activities to enhance access to justice. Through these programs they are inculcating a commitment to the professional value of providing pro bono services. The range of examples included collaborations between charities and the free advice sector to develop online tools to empower communities whose voices are denied and marginalised. Technology has the power to democratise legal information, knowledge and advice and has the potential to contribute to the solution to the crisis in access to justice.

The conference was organised as part of the HKU Law School’s 50th birthday celebration. As well as delegates attending in person the conference was also live streamed to Sun Yat-sen University in China, demonstrating the power of technology to bring together communities across the world. The opportunity to share and discuss how law schools can continue to innovate to encourage students to learn by doing but also to respond to the growing issue of unmet legal need was invaluable. I have learned so much through attending the conference- I have brought back some new ideas that can shape the further development of the Open Justice Centre.

Open Justice & Middlesex University Street Law Weekend – two blog posts by Elizabeth Walker and Laurie-Elizabeth Ketley

In October 2019 the Open Justice Centre and Middlesex University ran their second joint Student Street Law conference.  Twenty OU students worked with the same number of Middlesex students from Friday evening to Sunday tea time. They were introduced to the interactive teaching methodology that underpins the Street Law approach to public legal education and learnt how to create their own sessions.  The OU students were studying W360 (Justice in Action) or were members of the OU Law Society. 

Street law is one form of public legal education (PLE).  The premise underpinning PLE is that people who have even a basic understanding of their legal rights and duties, the way the legal system works and how to access legal advice will be better able to identify and resolve the legal problems they may encounter in the future. Street involves facilitating an interactive and participatory workshop on a legal topic to members of the public.  Students usually work with a small group together to facilitate a workshop to a group of secondary school pupils or a community group on a given legal topic of interest and relevance to them.

If you want to find out more about street law, please see the Open Justice website.  If you are an OU student, you can also attend out pro bono online event on street law on Thursday 7 November, 7 – 8pm in the Student Experience room on the Law Home Study website.  Level 3 OU law students can volunteer to take part in the street law project, run in partnership between the Open Justice centre and the OU Law Society, through either the Open Justice website or the OU Law Society website

A Pleasant Surprise – Attending The Street Law Conference by Elizabeth Walker

I first heard about the Street Law workshop during one of our law society meetings. When I was given an opportunity to attend I didn’t really think much of what the workshop would involve and simply was thinking it could add to extra skills when applying for the Bar Training Course next year. I had previously taken part in a school Street Law project with the OU, so I felt fairly confident in what the content of the workshop would cover.

As the workshop grew closer I decided to do a little more research on Richard Roe, the Professor from Georgetown University who would be attending. I soon realised that he had dedicated much of his professional life developing Street Law in a number of different countries and read how it had helped a number of communities. This got me thinking that maybe the workshop would be more beneficial than I first thought.

We got the schedule for the weekend around a week before the event, and when looking through it I could see it was going to be jam packed. Many of the activities in the schedule seemed to be highly interactive and though I feel I’m a confident person, I did wonder if I would feel comfortable to be able to fully engage with the activities in front of a number of other students from different universities.

I went into the Friday evening session with an open mind and I was even more pleasantly surprised than I thought. The lecturers running the workshop instantly made everyone feel welcome by getting everyone up and involved straight away. It was also a nice change being able to socialise with other OU students as this is a rare opportunity when studying with a distance university. It was especially useful as most of us were final year students and it was interesting to hear everyone’s aspirations once they completed their degree.

I was surprised to find that the weekend was heavily based on teaching techniques. However, after putting this into practice over the weekend, it has made me realise that these techniques can assist me with my remaining studies with the OU. It has helped me gain further confidence which I hope will assist with next year when furthering my studies.

Though I had already done a school Street Law project last year, I now wish to get involved with even more. One reason why I wanted to study law was to gain knowledge and apply it to help others that were not in the position to do so and street law gives you that very opportunity. The weekend also gave me the opportunity to see that there is more to teaching and that this could also be an option for in the future.

Following the weekend I decided to contact Richard Roe to again express my gratitude for all he did. He instantly responded with a number of reading materials and an invite to his next workshop later in the year on mock trials. His passion for this area of law is refreshing and inspiring to see. Overall, I couldn’t recommend the Street Law workshop more! I’ll be back next year for sure.

Elizabeth Walker – OU law student and member of OU Law Society

Where do I start with the Open Justice/Middlesex University Street Law Conference Weekend?!

It was absolutely fantastic from beginning to end! It started off a bit nerve-wracking as any situation you are in does, where you don’t know anyone and are there pretty much on your own. We were sat alongside students from Middlesex university, so that if we did know other people, we couldn’t bask in the comfort of being sat alongside them.

We were then given a task to talk to the person next to you, I know, the horror of it…to actually talk and interact with a stranger?! ….and that was it. The weekend propelled into one huge success.

Every single technique, challenge, task and initiative were carefully constructed to bring the most out of any given individual. To explore new ideas and to help increase engagement with the theory behind the weekend being Talk Less, Teach More! It made me want to be involved and massively helped with my confidence. To know that you were not going to be ridiculed should your answer be wrong was impossible, as no answer was deemed as wrong.

I am honestly so excited to go forward and use the skills I have learnt from the most incredible teachers, that will hopefully help me grow and develop as a person, alongside hopefully helping me to one day do the teaching. I am so grateful of the opportunity that the Open Justice team have given me and I am excited to hopefully do more alongside them and with them in the future!

Laurie-Elizabeth Ketley – OU law student and member of OU Law Society