Law on Trial 2013: Legal Utopias: The Future of Law and Legal Education


Event Dates: 17 – 21 June 2013 Various Venues
Birkbeck Main Building
Birkbeck, University of London
Malet Street
London WC1E 7HX

The Birkbeck School of Law presents:

Law on Trial 2013: Legal Utopias: The Future of Law and Legal Education

Against a background of profound changes in higher education policy, and in the year in which the Legal Education and Training Review (LETR) will report its findings to its sponsoring regulators in May 2013, the School of Law at Birkbeck places legal education on trial in this week of free lectures and workshops.

With roundtable discussions featuring distinguished legal academics, novelists, journalists and political activists, who explore the influence of legal education and legal educators on the wider cultural and social landscape, this is a trial not to be missed!

Take part as we debate the future of the School of Law, positioned in a climate where both publicly funded and privately sourced legal education providers battle with high fees and an ever expanding competitive market. Have your say over access to legal education as our panels explore whether legal academics should confront challenges of widening participation by developing a culture of pro bono – offering legal education freely outside their universities/colleges.

Monday 17 June 2013

The Utopian Law School and the Fate of the University

Professor Adam Gearey

Is there an alternative to debt and privatised education? Does a law school do any more than produce skilled operatives to grease the wheels of capital? This first panel of 2013’s Law on Trial intends to ask some critical questions about the perilous state of British Universities and the possibility of imagining alternatives. To what extent can a Law School address the wider community and its legal needs? Is a university simply a business turning a profit from its human capital? How can thinking about law be made part of an education in politics or ‘critical’ humanities? Equally important is the history of thinking differently about education- from the Anti-University of London, to the student protests of the 1960s and the Occupied spaces of present day. If the task of the utopian or critical law school is more than its own survival – how can these traditions of hope and dissent make any sense to us now?

Speakers for this session include:

Dr. Maia Pal, Department of International Relations, University of Sussex

Professor Jane Holder, Faculty of Laws, UCL  

Thomas Docherty, Professor of English and of Comparative Literature, University of Warwick


Tuesday 18 June 2013

Legal Education: Socialist Survivors

Birkbeck Law School works closely with the Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers. Ever since its foundation in 1930, Haldane has been a legal thorn in the side of every government, fighting for law reforms, civil liberties and access to justice for all; waging war on racism and discrimination; and engaging in practical solidarity in Europe and internationally.

Now, Haldane, which has over 400 members, barristers, solicitors, trade unionists and activists, is fighting against legal aid cuts. See Haldane’s strength is its young members: most of its executive are in their 20s.

How did they become socialists? What has been their experience of legal education?

Tonight’s panel enables you to engage with two recently qualified young lawyers.
Natalie Csengeri: caseworker at Lloyds PR Solicitors, 2012 KCL LLM Labour Law, 2011 BPTC City University, 2010 GDL at BPP, 2009 University of California Santa Barbara.

Stephen Knight: currently doing a pupillage, 2012 UCL LLM Jurisprudence and Legal Theory, 2011 BPTC City University London, 2010 University of Sheffield

Natalie and Stephen are committed political activists, and members of Haldane’s Executive


Wednesday 19 June 2013

New Foundations: Re-designing the Academic Stage of Legal Training

Professor Patricia Tuitt and Dr Stewart Motha

What should the 21st century law student be required to study? In a field of legal services in which entities as diverse as Law Centres and Supermarkets play a part, which professional or other bodies should determine the qualification regulations of aspiring lawyers? Should legal academics seek to impart broad principles of law or detailed rules and procedures? As it examines the merits of Birkbeck School of Law’s alternative qualifying law degree, our distinguished panel will debate the foundations of legal knowledge and many other questions concerning the academic stage of legal training.

Confirmed panel members:
Professor Joanne Conaghan, former Head of Kent Law School, co-editor (with Peter Cane) of the new Oxford Companion to Law (2008),author (with Wade Mansell) of Wrongs of Tort (1999) and of Gender and the Law ( forthcoming, 2013)

Shaun Wallace, Barrister, winner of Mastermind (2004) and British Television Personality – currently a Chaser on the ITV quiz show, The Chase.

Frances Webber, Barrister (formerly of Garden Court Chambers) and author of Borderline Justice: the Fight for Refugee and Migrant Rights (2012). Frances was counsel in many high profile asylum cases, including Shah v Islam (1999)

Professor Jiri Priban, Cardiff Law School, editor of the Journal of Law and Society and a regular contributor to the BBC World Service, the Czech TV, newspapers and other periodicals.

Alex Aldridge, Legal and education journalist, columnist at The Guardian and Above the Law, editor of Legal Cheek.


Thursday 20 June 2013

Legal Education, Discrimination and the Legal Profession

Chaired by Professor Matthew Weait

At a time when access to the legal profession is harder than ever for those who meet the formal conditions for training, this session will explore barriers to entry.

Lisa Webley, Professor of Empirical Legal Studies at the University of Westminster, will deliver a talk entitled Cultural Capital, the Legal Profession and Indirect Discrimination. Drawing on data derived from a series of socio-legal empirical projects focused on the workings of the legal profession, the talk will provide some context on the changing demography of the legal profession(s). It will consider the legal profession’s use of proxies (markers of cultural capital) for hiring and promotion with reference to Bourdieu’s theory of human capital, and set out how those proxies and processes may lead to unintended consequences including indirect discrimination against Black Asian and Minority Ethnic and women (would-be) lawyers. However, it also posits that some of the challenges and opportunities that the legal profession(s) face in the near future, including alternative business structures, may begin to subvert the operation of those proxies.

The talk will be a provocative intervention, and there will be formal responses to it from law students aspiring to enter the profession. There will also be plenty of opportunity for questions from the audience.


Friday 21st June 2013

Dream a Little Dream of Law

Dr Oscar Guardiola-Rivera

Join UN Member of the Working Group on People of African Descent, Mireille Fanon-Mendes France, world-renowned legal sociologist Boaventura de Sousa Santos, and philosopher Lewis R. Gordon – according to David Horowitz one of the 101 most dangerous academics in America? – for a conversation on the future of human rights, law and legal education in the twenty-first century. Against a background of budget cuts, austerity and the criminalization of protest, these three notable speakers and political activists will consider whether we can still dream new and alternative realities for law and education in a climate where publicly funded and privately sourced providers battle with high fees and the ever expanding rules of profit and market competition. Professor de Sousa Santos will present the World Social Forums initiative for a University of the Popular Movements. Mireille Fanon will speak from her experience in the office of the UN Human Rights Commission and the testimonies gathered by the UN team she led while to study the impact of UK cuts on peoples of African descent, all the while reaffirming the legacy of her father, the 1960s famous thinker and activist Frantz Fanon. Professor Gordon will consider academic disciplinary decadence and prospects for transformation from the perspective of his engagement with existential and Fanonian philosophy as well as activism. We may even have a few surprises involving drums and poetry to make this Friday session one to remember!

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