Primary page content

LLB Law class visit the home of the EU in the UK

EU Law class visit to Europe House

After a stimulating two-and-a-half hours workshop, time for a group picture, with our students, staff from the EU Delegation and Lord Kirkhope

Learning Law in legal London is a fundamental aspect of the learning experience in our LLB Law programme. All our Law modules, from Criminal Law to Corporate, and Immigration Law to Contract embed a range of study trips and experiential activities, as part of ‘contact time’.

On the 15th of November, it was the EU Law class’s turn to go on a study trip in London. A very enthusiastic group of year 2 students who take the module went to Westminster to visit Europe House, where the EU delegation in the UK (formerly the EU representation in the UK) is based.

The students and their lecturers – Dr Virginie Barral, who convenes the module, and Prof Dimitrios Giannoulopoulos, our Head of Department – arrived early, giving everyone sufficient time to grab a ‘cappuccino’, ‘latte’ or soft drink from the local café; always a good starting point with our learning activities in London!

We then entered the impressive Europe House; 27 flags now there in the main meeting room – the UK flag no longer there – a quick and simple visual illustration of the impact of a highly complex process, political and legal, of withdrawing from the EU!

Students then took part in an interactive session on the EU’s history, values and decision-making processes including a quiz on quirky geographical and cultural facts about the 27 member states. Did you know that Ireland is the only country in the EU where you will find no… snakes! The staff teaching the workshop also broke down the inherently complex EU institutions into simplistic elements, that were visually represented as parts of a bike. Something we could use in our EU Law lectures in the future…

We were then joined by Lord Kirkhope, a lawyer and politician, who served as an MEP (Member of European Parliament) between 2003 and 2016. Lord Kirkhope shared with the class his vision of the future relationship between the UK and the EU as a pro European conservative politician. To round-up the visit, it was the students’ turn to pitch to Lord Kirkhope what they felt were the most urgent issues facing the EU.

We could not think of a better way to learn EU Law in action (and the ways in which it will continue to influence the UK in the future), and are very grateful to the EU Delegation for their wonderful hospitality (and would like to make this visit an annual occurrence!).

Immigration Law class visit Kingsley Napley in the City

As part of their commercial awareness and career development study trips embedded within the Immigration Law module, our LLB students recently got a chance to visit Kingsley Napley LLP, a leading law firm based in central London. Founded in 1937, this dynamic firm of more than 400 attorneys provides legal advice nationally and internationally and works with a wide range of clients in a number of specialist fields, including commercial, employment, real estate, criminal litigation, family, regulatory, dispute resolution, immigration, and public law.

Our students became acquainted with the specialist Immigration team, which has been advising businesses and individuals on all aspects of UK immigration and nationality law for over 20 years, and which is top-ranked in both Chambers and Legal-500 rankings. We were hosted by Ms Marcia Longdon, a Partner in the Immigration team. With experience spanning over 20 years in the industry, Ms Longdon has been listed in Who’s Who Legal as a Thought Leader in Corporate Immigration and was chosen as one of the first Legal Services Are Great champions. She shared with us reflections on her personal career path, offered poignant examples of her work and her day-to-day practice, and kindly provided career-development tips. We also met with Ms Ilda de Sousaanother Partner in Immigration. Both brought immigration practice to life and impressed upon the students the significance and breath of immigration law, while explaining in detail some of the newer elements of this rapidly-changing area of law (including the rights of EU nationals since Brexit, and employer-sponsorship rules for skilled workers).

Kingsley Napley partners, Ilda de Sousa and Marcia Longdon, speaking to our students about their practice in Immigration Law, and advising them on how best to prepare for applying and interviewing at law firms.

Next, Mr Stephen Parkinson, Kingsley Napley’s Senior Partner and former Deputy Head of the Attorney General’s Office, discussed other practice areas and the firm’s overall culture, shedding further light on what professional and personal qualities make a good lawyer. Our students were provided with tips on how best to prepare themselves for applying and interviewing at law firms generally, and about how to translate their work and university experiences into skills that law firms look for in potential trainees. As a member of the Diversity & Inclusion group, Mr Parkinson also emphasised the firm’s diversity and equality policies and how its various inclusion networks help to ensure that all employees have a full opportunity to maximise their potential.

After these formal presentations, the students had a chance to mingle and chat one-on-one with our hosts, learning more about the rewards of legal practice at such a progressive firm, and about ways of gaining legal experience.

Learning about Kingsley Napley’s work on cutting-edge legal issues and with clients who often appear in the news provided our students an exciting perspective and a nice complement to what they have been learning in the classroom. We are very grateful to Kingsley Naples for being able to offer our students this engaging opportunity, especially amidst Covid-19 related restrictions.

AI and Criminal Justice Workshop with Fair Trials’ Griff Ferris

Griff Ferris, a leading AI and criminal justice expert at Fair Trails, delivered an exciting interactive workshop as part of our AI, Disruptive Technologies and the Law Year 3 module.

Fair Trials is an international NGO that campaigns for fair and equal criminal justice systems. Their work involves research, campaigning for law reform, supporting strategic litigation and building partnerships with lawyers, activists, academics and other NGOs. Griff leads on Fair Trials’ work on the use of AI in criminal justice. Previously, he was a legal and policy officer at Big Brother Watch, where he investigated and challenged infringements of human rights as well as oppressive and discriminatory use of technology and data by the state, police and private companies.

In this guest workshop, Griff talked about recent developments in the field, focusing on the growing use of automated decision-making and facial recognition by law enforcement and other agencies. This included crucial issues such as discrimination, transparency, the right to privacy, presumption of innocence, and freedom of expression. Students engaged with two recent reports by Big Brother Watch (Facial Recognition Surveillance) & Fair Trials (Automating Injustice: The use of AI & ADM Systems in Criminal Justice in Europe), and participated in an interactive ‘campaigning exercise’ where they had to provide practical solutions and address the pressing criminal justice challenges raised by AI.

Working with Lewisham Borough, engaging local students with the study of Law

Over 30 sixth form and college students from Lewisham attended the launch event of the Lewisham Challenge Law programme on Wednesday 17 November 2021.

In collaboration with Lewisham Borough and the Widening Participation team at Goldsmiths, the Department of Law is delighted to support this year long programme that sees students take part in a range of activities, including guest lectures, student panels and trips to law focused venues as well as our campus. The programme helps to inspire the next generation of lawyers, critical thinkers and social justice advocates.

“This programme is an opportunity for Lewisham students to network with law professionals, academics and current degree students. They will be able to really explore future study and career options and their experience will have a positive impact upon their current studies by widening their knowledge and developing their critical skills” – Sid Hughes, Lewisham Challenge, LBN

Students at the launch event had the opportunity to participate in a range of activities including Professor Dimitrios Giannoulopoulos (Head of Goldsmiths Law Department) in conversation with Shereener Browne, of Garden Court Chambers which helped raise awareness of pathways, career opportunities and provide an understanding of what it is like to study Law at Goldsmiths.

“There could not be a more urgent time to work with students in our local community, to create academic aspiration for them and enrich their confidence, experience and understanding of future career pathways, in Law and related subjects. Despite the invaluable efforts of teachers and schools, the pandemic will have substantially disrupted these students’ experience over the last 18 months; we have a civic responsibility to support the local synergies that will empower these students and catapult them into successful academic destinations. 

As a Department of Law that was built on the foundation of the pursuit of equality and social justice, we are thrilled to join forces with the London Borough of Lewisham and our Widening Participation team, and grateful for the warm reception we’ve had from the students who have joined us for this launch. Judging from the energy in the room and participation tonight, this will be a most impactful programme and we can’t wait for the next opportunity to immerse students into Law as substantive knowledge and self-sustained system, with its own cultural norms, institutional attitudes and idiosyncratic methods.” – Professor Dimitrios Giannoulopoulos, Head of Goldsmiths Law Department.

Attendees also had an opportunity to hear from current Goldsmiths law students Tasnim and Oliver, who shared their own educational journeys and decisions with the current sixth formers. It was clear from the Q&A session that followed, just how much the audience valued the advice being given by all of the speakers.

“I’m really pleased that we are able to support such an engaging programme of events over the course of the year, strengthening our ties with local schools & colleges, the Borough of Lewisham and supporting our Civic responsibilities. We are really keen to help inspire students in Lewisham and it is evident that the speakers at the event did just that.” – Faye Yasmin. Widening Participation Manager.

Attending Year 12 pupils from schools and colleges across Lewisham included Sydenham, Forest Hill, Haberdashers Hatcham, Prendergast, Sedgehill and Knights Academy Sixths alongside students from Christ the King Colleges.

Law students attend Hamlyn lecture delivered by Lord Pannick QC

Lord Pannick QC delivering the first Hamlyn lecture

A few lucky Goldsmiths Law students were amongst a small audience attending in person the – within hours – sold out first Hamlyn lecture at Gray’s Inn Hall on October 11th.

The lecture, that is coordinated by the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies at the University of London, was delivered by Lord Pannick QC, one of the most distinguished barristers in the country, who has led in the Miller (1) and Miller (2) cases, where the Government suffered historic defeats, on the triggering of Article 50 and the prorogation of Parliament respectively. More recently, Lord Pannick acted for Shamima Begum at the Supreme Court.

The President of the UK Supreme Court, Lord Reed, introducing Lord Pannick.

The lecture celebrated advocacy (“The Essence of Advocacy”). Lord Pannick sought to identify the central characteristics of good and bad advocacy with the aid of examples from courtroom practice in the UK and abroad.

Lord Pannick elaborated on ten principles that all good advocates should follow such as sound knowledge of the relevant area of law (naturally), focussing on the strong(er) arguments, but being aware – and working on – weaknesses in your argument, engaging with the bench, plain speaking, avoiding “boring” the judge or taking the risk of humour, and ensuring you never lose your temper (no matter how serious the provocation).

Goldsmiths Law students with our Head of Department, Prof Dimitrios Giannoulopoulos

The lecture included an impressive range of references to great orators and politicians; Demosthenes, Aristotle, Seneca, Abraham Lincoln, Obama got a number of mentions, as did contemporary lawyers in the US and the UK, though not always for good reasons!



Decolonial theory, AI and beating algorithmic oppression

DeepMind experts visit our AI, Disruptive Technologies and the Law Year 3 class.

Last week, we welcomed Iason Gabriel and William Isaac from DeepMind’s AI Ethics and Society Team at Goldsmiths (virtually). William and Iason joined our ‘AI, Disruptive Technologies and the Law’ Year 3 class—to talk about their cutting-edge research on AI ethics, fairness and governance, and to answer our students’ questions.

DeepMind is one of the world’s leading AI companies, responsible for various innovative products such as AlphaGo (which beat former Go champion Lee Se-dol 4-1) and AlphaFold (AI designed to solve protein folding, one of the grandest challenges in science). DeepMind’s Ethics Team in particular, where William and Iason are senior research scientists, deals with the key ethical challenges raised by AI—its goal is to build safe, accountable and socially beneficial AI that works for all. William is an expert in the areas of fairness and governance of AI, and his work has been featured in leading publications including Science and the New York Times. Iason is a political theorist and philosopher, with expertise in AI ethics and distributive justice, whose work has been featured in Nature and recent European Parliament reports on AI.

In this session, Iason and William talked about their fascinating work in the area and discussed two of their recent papers with our students: ‘Decolonial AI: Decolonial Theory as Sociotechnical Foresight in Artificial Intelligence’; and ‘Artificial Intelligence, Values, and Alignment’. These articles aim to address a range of complex socio-economic challenges posed by AI—we reflected on decolonial theory in the context of AI and the key question of addressing algorithmic oppression, exploitation and dispossession through responsible and fair AI governance. We discussed the challenge of building ethically-aligned AI systems and the normative framework necessary to achieve this, emphasizing the importance of establishing a fair, robust and genuinely inclusive process for identifying such principles.

The session thus exposed our Law students to world-leading research on AI ethics and governance and allowed them to reflect on the future of artificial intelligence more generally.

Goldsmiths Law’s Dr Plamen Dinev, a leading expert on the relationship between the Law (particularly Intellectual Property law) and technology is teaching and coordinating the AI, Disruptive Technologies and the Law module, which embeds a number of thought-provoking encounters with industry experts and academics.

Internationally leading QCs appointed as Visiting Professors at Goldsmiths Law

We are thrilled to welcome Jessica Simor QC and Schona Jolly QC as VisitingProfessors in the Department.

Jessica Simor QC is a founding member of Matrix Chambers. In 2016, she was a UK nominee for Judge at the European Court of Human Rights, and is recognised as one of the country’s leading specialists in public law, EU law and human rights law. From 1993-1997, she worked in the Environment Directorate of the European Commission in Brussels, the European Commission of Human Rights in Strasbourg and then as legal adviser to the Human Rights Ombudsman in Bosnia.

Jessica was counsel in numerous landmark cases, including Smith and Grady v UK (ending the ban on homosexuals in the Armed Forces), R (Wright) v Home Secretary (the first case in which the Home Secretary was ordered to initiate a public inquiry into a death in custody) as well as the historic R (Miller) v Prime Minister caseshe represented the second claimant there, Dos Santos.

Jessica’s work on Brexit continues to attract significant engagement from legal and policy experts in the area. She is also currently acting in the judicial review challenge to the decision of UK Export Finance Department and the Chancellor of the Exchequer to provide UK financing of $1.15bn in respect of Total’s liquid natural gas development in Cap Delgado in Mozambique, and is leading a project to advocate for EU legislation with extra-territorial effects to ensure a living wage for workers in the garment sector.

Schona Jolly QC is the Chair of the Bar Human Human Rights Committee of England and Wales (BHRC) (which means Goldsmiths Law now has as Visiting Professors the current and former Chairwomen of BHRC; Kirsty Brimelow QC was the first Chairwoman of the BHRC) and Head of Human Rights Practice Group at Cloisters Chambers.

Schona is bringing to Goldsmiths her unique insight and leading expertise in international human rights law and the rule of law internationally.

Over the last decade, Schona has been at the forefront of international human rights and rule of law work in countries around the world, including Central Asia, Egypt, Hong Kong, Turkey and across South Asia. Her dynamic and practical contributions to the field engage law and policy.

She has deep expertise in equality and discrimination law, with an international focus on minority rights.

Students and academics at Goldsmiths work closely with our eminent Visiting Professors, who teach our students, support our research and join forces with our academic team in much needed public and community engagement.

Law and Climate Justice: film screening and Q & A at global law firm Simmons and Simmons

The learning never stops in our programme, and we continuously link our students with relevant events in central London (in addition to embedding field trips to legal institutions, law courts and law firms in London as part of curricular activity). We invited our students to attend a film screening, Q & A and launch of a Legal Empowerment project at global law firm Simmons and Simmons, on October 25. We were delighted to hear that a few of them managed to attend in person, while others watched the livestream.

The event was put together by Lawyers Against Poverty (LAP), Simmons & Simmons, The Alliance for Lawyers at Risk, Action4Justice and Peace Brigades International UK. The wider project aims to bridge the gap between the climate justice and human rights movements and the international legal community, and asks the question of whether tackling climate change can be seen as a human rights issue (we asked the same question in our annual human rights lecture 2021, with the UK Judge at the European Court of Human Rights, Tim Eicke QC).

Year 3 student, Olivia Burns, who attended the event from the offices of Simmons and Simmons, explained that the event “drew a parallel between human rights and climate justice” that would be “useful to reference in work [she] will be submitting in the Human Rights Law & Clinic module this year”. Olivia added that the event “raised some interesting discussions about the realities/difficulties of enforcing human rights rulings in isolated and exploited communities – particularly when your fight is against states and powerful corporations”, and that it also “looked at our spiritual connection with land and how that may impact how ownership is viewed by indigenous communities versus the corporations trying to use the land”.

Q & A with our new Lecturer in Legal Practice, Dr Sally Adams

This academic year we appointed Dr Sally Adams as our first Lecturer in Legal Practice, Law Clinics and the SQE (to cite the full title, which shows the breadth and depth of this exciting new role).

In the Q & A below, Sally speaks about her prior experience, and reflects on her ambitions in the new role.

You’re joining the Law department as the first Lecturer in Legal Practice, with special responsibility for Law Clinics and the SQE, a particularly wide-ranging and ambitious role. Tell us a little bit about how the role appealed to you, and specific elements of your professional and research experience that you’re seeking to bring to Goldsmiths in performing this role?

I was excited by the opportunity to join Goldsmiths’ Law department.  As Goldsmiths’ law degrees have been designed from the outset with a focus on experiential learning and an eye to the SQE, the Lecturer in Legal Practice role seemed a perfect fit with both Goldsmiths’ approach and my background and interests.

Where did you work, and where did you study, before joining Goldsmiths?

For the past year, I have been a visiting lecturer at the University of Law teaching law and sociology to undergraduates.

In 2019 I completed a PhD in Law at King’s College London.  My thesis considered how immigration law regulating high-skilled migration to the UK informed and was informed by mainstream migration narratives and how, in turn, these narratives contributed to highly skilled migrants’ identity formation.

Before starting my PhD, I was a solicitor in practice. I completed my training contract at a legal aid firm in Newcastle upon Tyne and stayed with the firm post-qualification to specialise in immigration law.   I subsequently joined the Immigration Department at London firm Kingsley Napley where I worked for some ten years, initially as a solicitor and then as a partner.

The Department of Law is very passionate about connecting legal theory with legal practice. What are the key challenges and opportunities in doing that?

In my experience of legal practice, law was understood almost exclusively as an instrument or tool to be used to achieve client objectives. In the academy however this instrumental view of law is but one of many ways to conceptualise law. Nevertheless, the practice of law and academic law or legal theory are closely connected. Indeed, the links and tensions between theory and practice and the extent to which one informs the other was something that I only appreciated fully when undertaking my doctoral research.

Integrating theory and practice is challenging.  Concepts of morality for example may seem far removed from litigating a claim in negligence. However, by studying legal theory alongside aspects of practice, that is, by ‘doing’ law with reference to contemporary real-life issues, not only helps to highlight the connections and ruptures between specific laws and their theoretical underpinnings but also helps to encourage students to interrogate commonplace legal and social assumptions and practices.

What would you advise students joining Law School right now? How can they strike a good balance between pursuing academic excellence, on the one hand, and building a solid CV, demonstrating close engagement with the external world, on the other?

There is no right answer to this. We each have strengths and weaknesses, different needs and priorities and competing demands on our time. Noting that there is no single approach to studying law, I think students should understand what they most want to achieve during their time at Goldsmiths and try to allocate their time accordingly.  This should not be a one-off exercise but rather an on-going conversation between students and staff in recognition that students’ focus and aims and therefore the balance of their activities can and undoubtedly will change over time.

Year 1 LLB students participating in a debating exercise during welcome week (September 2021). The SQE2 module enables students to practice legal skills central to the examination for qualifying as a solicitor.

Goldsmiths Law takes a very proactive approach to the SQE, embedding some preparation for this radically different new examination for qualifying as a solicitor into the degree. This includes a Year 3 specialist module, SQE2 Practical Legal Skills in Context, that you’ll be leading on. Tell us about your plans for this module.

The SQE 2 module will not stand alone but will build on the substantive and practical skills that students will have already developed during their time at Goldsmiths. My aim is for the module to support students in developing some of the key skills and know-how that lawyers need to succeed in their professional lives. The module’s content and methods of assessment will be closely aligned to those of the SQE 2 itself to enable students to prepare for the real thing. The emphasis will be very much on ‘doing law’: students will practise their skills – client interviewing, legal drafting, case analysis and so on – with reference to scenarios similar to those encountered in practice.

 More broadly, what are you looking forward to the most being at Goldsmiths?

I am really looking forward to engaging with students and members of the department to both support and learn from them. Although I enjoyed teaching online last year, perhaps more than I expected, it will be good to be back in the classroom face to face.

What hobbies are you leaning into?

After 18 months of intermittent lockdowns, I am tentatively rediscovering London’s cultural riches. I have also just started a wine tasting course so hope to be able to distinguish between red and black fruit aromas by the end of the year.

Other than that, I enjoy walking – both hiking across fields with the dog and strolling around unfamiliar parts of London and other cities.

Why the Draft Online Safety Bill is cause for concern

By Aysem Diker Vanberg 

On 12 May 2021, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sports published the Draft Online Safety Bill. The Joint Committee on the Draft Online Safety Bill has initiated an inquiry and called for evidence on to scrutinise it. Dr Aysem Diker Vanberg (Lecturer in Law at Goldsmiths), Dr Kim Barker, Dr Guido Noto La Diega and  Dr Ruth Flaherty have given written evidence on the proposed Draft Bill on behalf of Bileta (The British and Irish Law Education Technology Association).

In our submission, we raised concerns over the proposed Draft Online Safety Bill (OSB), both in terms of its substantive aim,but also its likely practical implications.

Scope is too broad 

First, the draft Bill is very broad in scope, and it is likely to have dire consequences on free speech. Section 46(3) of the Draft Bill defines legal but harmful content as “content having, or indirectly having, a significant adverse physical or psychological impact on an adult of ordinary sensibilities.”

This is a very vague definition and creates the danger of censoring a vast amount of content that is neither illegal nor harmful. Due to the hefty fines and other liabilities introduced in the Bill, platforms and service providers are likely to take down content without fully investigating whether it is harmful or not, overzealously to protect their own interests. This will have serious consequences for freedom of expression and on media plurality, encouraging the silencing of controversial and minority (opposition) opinions which are much needed in society.

Unprecedented powers to private companies 

Second, the draft Bill gives unprecedented powers to private companies in terms of moderating and censoring content which is neither desirable nor sustainable in the long run.

OFCOM ill-suited to regulate 

Third, the choice of OFCOM as the likely regulatory body for the proposed regime is concerning. OFCOM is sorely lacking in staffing, and the requisite expertise to competently undertake the required regulatory role in the context of online safety.

In the light of above, the provisions of the Draft Bill need to be amended to avoid ambiguity and over-censoring. Furthermore, given the need for a bespoke and nuanced approach to regulating online content, there is a need for a new regulatory body.