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Francine Ryan

Profile summary

Professional biography

Francine is the Director of the Open Justice Centre and Senior Lecturer in Law. 

Francine's first degree was a LLB (Hons) in Law at the University of Lancaster.  She then went on to complete the LPC and qualified as a solicitor in 1996. Whilst working as a solicitor, Francine completed a part time Masters in Law and a MSc in Management. Francine worked in practice for over 10 years as a senior solicitor handling complex litigation cases. Francine is currently completing her PhD in Educational Research at Lancaster University. 

Francine is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. 

Francine is a member of the Socio-Legal Studies Association, and the Association of Law Teachers she is also a trustee of the Clinical Legal Education Organisation.  

Research interests

Francine’s main areas of interest are clinical legal education in particularly technology enhanced learning. The Open Justice Clinic has been the object of considerable interest from scholars of legal education, given its innovative approach to combining experiential learning with cutting edge legal technologies. 

Francine  has published her research in academic journals and has been an invited speaker at international conferences including an event celebrating 50 years of Hong Kong Law School. Francine is interested in the intersection between law and technology and is working on a research project that explore the skills, attributes and capabilities law graduates require to transition into the future world of legal work. 



Teaching interests

As the Director of the Open Justice Centre, Francine has worked to develop a range of innovative and technology enhanced opportunities for OU students. Francine created and is now the Director of the Open Justice Online Law Clinic. In this role she has worked with students to pioneer the UK's first 'virtual law clinic. The clinic was highly commended in the 'Best New Pro Bono Project' category athe Attorney General's Pro Bono Awards in December 2018 and won the 'Best Legal Tech' prize in May 2019.

She also leads the digital justice project, the Open Justice Centre as become the first university in the UK to use legal automation platform, Josef to educate law students. Francine is working with colleagues on a  Virtual Reality Courtroom project which will support both teaching and learning and knowledge exchange. Francine has written OU teaching materials on pro bono, social justice and legal skills. 

Francine was a finalist in The Law Teacher of the Year 2020 . She is also a co-author of Digital Lawyering that is due to published by Taylor & Francis later this year.

External collaborations

Francine is the editor of the Journal of Commonwealth Law and Legal Education (the Journal of the Commonwealth Legal Education Association). 

Francine was awarded a grant from the Equality and Human Rights Commission for a collaborative project with AdviceUK to develop Human Rights and Discrimination training for the free advice sector. She was also involved in developing the UNODC Implementing the United Nations Education for Justice (E4J) initiative in your university course.

Francine is also one of the academic advisors on the critically acclaimed second series of the BBC/OU television documentary series, The Detectives 

Francine is a regular columnist for Lawyer Monthly. 


ChatGPT, I have a legal question? The impact of Gen AI tools on law clinics and access to justice (2024-04-26)
Ryan, Francine and Hardie, Liz
International Journal of Clinical Legal Education, 31(1) (pp. 166-205)

ChatGPT and the Future of Legal Education and Practice (2023)
Ajevski, Marjan; Barker, Kim; Gilbert, Andrew; Hardie, Liz and Ryan, Francine
The Law Teacher, 57(3) (pp. 352-364)

Rage against the machine? Incorporating legal tech into legal education (2021)
Ryan, Francine
The Law Teacher, 55(3) (pp. 392-404)

Voices from the front line: exploring what pro bono means to lawyers in England and Wales? (2021)
Ryan, Francine
International Journal of the Legal Profession, 28(3) (pp. 265-278)

Taking Clinical Legal Education Online: Songs of Innocence and Experience (2020-12-11)
McFaul, Hugh; Hardie, Liz; Ryan, Francine; Lloyd Bright, Keren and Graffin, Neil
International Journal of Clinical Legal Education, 27(4) (pp. 6-38)

A virtual law clinic: a realist evaluation of what works for whom, why, how and in what circumstances? (2020)
Ryan, Francine
The Law Teacher, 54(2) (pp. 237-248)

A mobile app for public legal education: a case study of co-designing with students (2020)
McFaul, Hugh; FitzGerald, Elizabeth; Ryan, Francine and Byrne, David
Research in Learning Technology, 28, Article 2434

Connectivity, confidentiality and confidence: Key issues in the provision of online pro bono activities (2018-09-05)
Jones, Emma; Ryan, Francine and Mcfaul, Hugh
International Journal of Clinical Legal Education, 25(2) (pp. 48-88)

Clinical legal education in the United Kingdom: Origins, growth and the technological innovations and challenges of its future (2017-05)
Jones, Emma; Mcfaul, Hugh and Ryan, Francine
German Journal of Legal Education, 4 (pp. 107-136)

Digital Lawyering: Technology and Legal Practice in the 21st Century (2022)
Jones, Emma; Ryan, Francine; Thanaraj, Ann and Wong, Terry
ISBN : 9780367260781 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : Abingdon

How to Offer Effective Pastoral Support in a Distance Learning Institution (2024-03-08)
Hardie, Liz and Ryan, Francine
In: Bleasdale, Lydia ed. How to Offer Effective Wellbeing Support to Law Students. How to guides (pp. 88-101)
ISBN : 978 1 80392 079 5 | Publisher : Edward Elgar

Using virtual reality to enhance the law school curriculum (2023)
Jones, Emma; Ryan, Francine; McFaul, Hugh; Vince, David; Kizilkaya, Lawrence and Daniels, Jamie
In: Tharanj, Ann and Gledhill, Kris eds. Teaching Legal Education in the Digital Age: Pedagogical Practices to Digitally Empower Law Graduates
ISBN : 9780367367404 | Publisher : Routledge

Innovative technologies in UK legal education (2020)
Ryan, Francine and Mcfaul, Hugh
In: Jones, Emma and Cownie, Fiona eds. Key Directions in Legal Education National and International Perspectives (pp. 67-79)
ISBN : 9780429448065 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : Abingdon

Law Clinics: What, why and how? (2020)
Bleasedale, Lydia; Rizzotto, Beverley; Stalker, Rachel; Yeatman, Lucy; McFaul, Hugh; Ryan, Francine; Johnson, Nick and Thomas, Linden
In: Thomas, Linden and Johnson, Nick eds. The Clinical Legal Education Handbook (pp. 7-56)
ISBN : 978-1-911507-17-8 | Publisher : University of London Press

50 years of Clinical Legal Education: Looking Back to the Future (2020)
Hardie, Liz; Mcfaul, Hugh and Ryan, Francine
In: Claydon, Lisa; Derry, Caroline and Ajevski, Marjan eds. Law in Motion: 50 years of Legal Change (pp. 212-227)
ISBN : 978-1-4730-3148-7 | Publisher : The Open University Law School

The Integration of Technology into Clinical Legal Education: An Exploration of the 'Virtual' Law Clinic (2020)
Ryan, Francine
In : Conference on Experiential Learning and Innivation in Legal Education (18-19 Oct 2019, Hong Kong University) (pp. 98-104)