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Preparing students for diverse career paths, inspiring them to pursue social justice (spotlight on Dr Dagmar Myslinska)

Dr Dagmar Myslinska has recently joined Goldsmiths Law. She will be convening the Contract Law module in Year 1, contributing policy research to our ‘Britain in Europe’ think tank, and taking the lead at the immigration law branch of our Law & Policy clinic. 

In this Q & A, she reflects on her educational background, rich teaching experience and legal professional expertise, and the exciting contributions she is looking forward to making to the LLB Law programme that aims to shape generations of lawyers ready for 21st century legal practice.

Where did you work/study before joining Goldsmiths?

I did my doctoral studies at the LSE. Before arriving at Goldsmiths, I had also taught at various undergraduate and postgraduate law and criminal justice programmes in the US and Japan, including at Columbia Law School.

What are your specialist areas in Law?

My research focuses on the intersection of law, migration, and equality. For better or worse, Brexit has provided an additional impetus to my work.

What is your role in Goldsmiths’ Law programme?

I’m the convenor for Contract Law. I will also be contributing policy research to the Britain in Europe think tank, based here at Goldsmiths Law, which focuses on legal and political implications of the UK’s evolving relationship with the EU. Moreover, I will be taking the lead on immigration-related projects for the Law and Policy Clinic. We will shortly be announcing some very exciting and timely clinic initiatives focusing on immigration policy.

What is your approach to teaching? What are your plans for Contract Law for the next academic year?

My approach to teaching is active and collaborative. I seek to make law come alive for my students, by engaging with its broader social, economic, and political contexts, and by connecting law to real events, real policy and ethical issues, and real people. Learning, of course, is much more than textbook-based. I hope to support my students so that they can learn from one another and from self-reflection as well. My foremost goals are to enable my students to think critically, never be afraid to question everything (including the foundations of laws, and my viewpoints!), and build various skills so that they become prepared for diverse career paths and inspired to pursue social justice.

In Contract Law, Dr Myslinska is planning to engage students in close analysis of illustrative case studies and experiential learning activities, including negotiating and drafting a house sale contract, and in skill-building for the new Solicitors Qualifying Examination.

In Contract Law, Dr Myslinska is planning to engage students in close analysis of illustrative case studies and experiential learning activities, including negotiating and drafting a house sale contract, and in skill-building for the new Solicitors Qualifying Examination (Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels)

Contract law is in many ways very accessible to new law students. Many of its concepts are easy to relate to because all of us enter into contracts on a daily basis, without even realising that we are doing so. The year-long module will cover all aspects of contract law, including its economic and political foundations, how contracts are formed, how they are performed, and what happens when something goes wrong. The module will cover a variety of types of contracts, such as individual tenancy agreements, complex commercial finance agreements, verbal agreements, and smart contracts. To make the subject even more interesting, I plan to engage students in close analysis of illustrative case studies, in experiential activities (negotiating and drafting a house sale contract), and in skill-building for the Solicitors Qualifying Examination. Finally, to help students gain a broader perspective on British contract law and its theoretical underpinnings, I will also introduce some contrasting examples from laws of select foreign jurisdictions.

You have significant experience in teaching Law at US academic institutions. Are there particular elements of US legal education that you’re seeking to bring to Goldsmiths Law?

Dr Myslinska anticipates that Goldsmiths students will be very receptive to some hallmarks of teaching law at US institutions, such as active class participation.

Since law degrees are postgraduate professional degrees in the US, American law teaching has increasingly emphasised the importance of building legal skills from day 1. I anticipate that Goldsmiths students will be very receptive to some hallmarks of teaching law at US institutions, such as taking ownership of their learning and making it collaborative and interactive – for example, through experiential learning (such as debating, drafting, negotiating, mooting, client interviewing), and active class participation. I also like to emphasise the importance of solid analytical and communication skills, unbiased judgment, thorough preparation, thinking outside the box, and not forgetting the human element involved in every legal issue. I hope to instill in my students the importance of these elements, all necessary to good lawyering, rather than teaching legal doctrine only.

What are you looking forward to the most being at Goldsmiths?

The culture at Goldsmiths promotes creativity, free thinking, new ideas, and interdisciplinary socially-driven approaches.

I am excited about being surrounded by passionate and brilliant colleagues who excel as teachers and publicly-engaged researchers. The culture at Goldsmiths promotes creativity, free thinking, new ideas, and interdisciplinary socially-driven approaches, among both its students and faculty. It’s an inspiring, relatively small community where people are happy and supportive. I am looking forward to making Goldsmiths my home and learning a great deal from both my students and colleagues.

Moreover, as an inaugural lecturer in law, I feel extremely privileged to be able to help shape the direction of the law programme, thereby creating a framework for educating generations of creative, engaged, ethical lawyers.

European human rights law has not usurped the power of Parliament

Goldsmiths Law academics respond to Lord Sumption’s third Reith Lecture on ‘Human Rights and Wrongs’

Judges at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg (credit: Council of Europe)

The BBC  invites each year a leading figure to deliver a series of lectures on the radio, to advance public debate about significant issues of contemporary interest. In his third lecture this year, former Supreme Court judge, Jonathan Sumption, argued that judges, especially those of the European Court of Human Rights, have usurped the power of Parliament by expanding the interpretation of human rights law.

The lecture caused a stir in the legal world, with some commentators endorsing its key message (to reduce the impact of European human rights and bring power back to Parliament), whereas others, human rights experts in particular, have quickly responded by highlighting the vital importance of human rights and impact that the case law of the European Court of Human Rights has had in the UK, for example in relation to freedom from discrimination or the right to privacy.

Goldsmiths Law experts have reacted to the lecture. Our Head of Law, Professor Dimitrios Giannoulopoulos, has a published (with Prof Julian Petley) a long piece in Open Democracy, noting that Lord Sumption’s analysis offers a stark reminder of how deeply entrenched the anti-European human rights narrative is in the UK.

In a letter to the Times, Visiting Professor in Law, Kirsty Brimelow QC, explained that the provisions of the Human Rights Act ensure that parliament remains sovereign and the courts do not obtain extra powers.

Finally, Visiting Professor in Law, Adam Wagner, has written for the Prospect magazine, denouncing the misrepresentations and overblown criticisms of the European Court of Human Rights, and concluding that Brexit puts in serious risk the longevity of the operation of the European Convention on Human Rights in the UK.

The law programme at Goldsmiths offers a unique opportunity to develop expertise in issues relating to human rights, including by studying for the LLB Law with Criminal Justice and Human Rights.