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