Navigation

Liberty’s Martha Spurrier to LLB class: “We must keep the Human Rights Act intact”

Martha Spurrier to Goldsmiths’ LLB Law students: “Rules affecting our human rights can sometimes be unfair and the law inadequate. You must be prepared to challenge unfair rules and campaign for their change”

In line with our approach of teaching Law in its socio-political context and exposing students to key players in the legal and political process, we had the great pleasure of hosting Martha Spurrier in the Year 1 ‘Public Law and the Human Rights Act’ module, coordinated by Goldsmiths’ Dr Virginie Barral.

Martha was appointed earlier this year Visiting Professor in Law at Goldsmiths. She is the Director of the UK’s leading human rights NGO Liberty and a human rights lawyer specialising in questions of access to justice, freedom of expression, children and women’s rights, and the rights of prisoners and immigration detainees.

In her lecture, Martha discussed how the Human Rights Act had changed the way civil servants and judges make decisions on a day to day basis, noting that a remarkable undocumented impact of the Act has been on the way public servants have integrated the concepts of rights in the way they interact with people.

Confronting students with current debates about updating the Human Rights Act (in line with the Conservative government’s 2019 election manifesto), Martha brought to light the inadequacy of the common law to protect fundamental rights effectively and insisted on the importance of keeping the Human Rights Act intact.

She also pointed out that rules can sometimes be unfair and the law inadequate. She encouraged students to be prepared to challenge unfair rules and campaign for their change.

Martha also deplored the lack of attention and interest paid in the UK to economic, social and cultural rights such as the right to food, shelter, or health whilst the financial crisis and deepening socio-economic inequalities have brought these in sharp relief with more families unable to feed themselves decently. She called for more radical thinking about socio-economic rights and drew from the work of Andrew Fagan to show that poverty and destitution often mean lack of access to civil and political rights. A higher level of protection of socio-economic rights was thus necessary to ensure fuller civil and political rights protection.

Martha predicted that alongside the climate crisis, which raises obvious fundamental rights questions, the future direction of rights protection and campaigning in the UK will focus on socio-economic rights and that Liberty was certainly thinking very hard about this.

We are delighted with Martha’s appointment as a Visiting Professor in Law at Goldsmiths, and are very excited to be working with her and Liberty, in our attempt to confront our students with major socio-political and economic challenges that we’re facing in the UK today.

Mock murder trial at the RCJ: defendant “guilty” and “sentenced to life imprisonment”

LLB Law cohort at the Royal Courts of Justice (January 2020)

29 January 2020

Goldsmiths Law students in Year 1 of the LLB Law programme took part in a mock murder trial at the Royal Courts of Justice today, during the second RCJ visit of the LLB Law cohort this year.

The mock trial concerned a joint enterprise murder case. Students undertook the roles of judge, barristers, witnesses, clerk and jury, and were provided with background to the case and scripts to work from.

With a little prompting from the National Justice Museum facilitator, mock barristers questioned and cross-examined eight witnesses to establish the chain of events that led to the killing, the relationship between co-defendants and victim, and the specifics of the crime scene.

Jurors were provided with evidence of CCTV footage of the co-defendants fleeing the scene, and were asked to assess witness testimony on the basis of whether it helped establish whether the offence of murder had been proven beyond reasonable doubt.

The defendant was found guilty by the jury and was duly sentenced to life imprisonment.

The study visit and mock trial were part of the ‘English Legal System in a Global Context’ Year 1 module which introduces students to key legal institutions and concepts, and to relevant institutional parties and practice. Goldsmiths Law’s Dr Alex Dymock offered guidance to the students during the trial.

We are thankful to the National Justice Museum, for coordinating the mock trial and study visit, and our continued collaboration.

LLB Law students to visit premier global and Magic Circle firms, and Facebook’s legal department in London

The City

We are thrilled to announce a number of outstanding opportunities for our LLB Law students to go on commercial awareness visits, including to a premier global law firm, Magic Circle firms, Facebook and the American boutique law firm famous for its involvement in high-profile cases such as United States v Microsoft, Perry v Brown and Bush v Gore.

These exciting activities are delivered in the context of the Year 1 ‘Contract Law’ module, led by Dr Dagmar Myslinska, and mirror our innovative teaching approach that embeds experiential learning and career development activities into contact time in all our modules.

29 November – guest lecture by Dr Simon Witney from Debevoise & Plimpton LLP. Dr Witney is a Solicitor and a Special Counsel in the Private Equity, Funds/Investment Management and Business Integrity Groups at Debevoise & Plimpton LLP. A prominent member of the UK and European private equity communities, he is a regular speaker and commentator on company law, corporate governance and regulatory matters. He has advised private equity clients as well as the UK Government on a wide range of fund and transactional matters, is a member of the British Private Equity and Venture Capital Association, and a past Chair of Invest Europe’s Tax, Legal and Regulatory Committee. Dr Witney is also a Visiting Professor in Practice in the Law Department at the LSE.

Debevoise & Plimpton LLP is a premier global law firm, with approximately 700 lawyers working in nine offices across three continents, including more than 120 in London. It is best known for private equity, mergers and acquisitions, financial services-related matters, white collar and regulatory defence, and top-level litigation matters (the former UK attorney general, Lord Peter Goldsmith QC, works in the London office). The firm’s core clients tend to come from banking, health care, insurance, private equity and technology, and media and telecommunications industries.

7 February – study trip for a guest lecture by Jantira Raftery at Facebook’s London office in Fitzrovia.

Ms Raftery is Competition Counsel on the in-house legal team at Facebook, covering competition and antitrust matters across Europe.

Prior to joining Facebook, Ms Raftery was a senior associate in the competition group at Slaughter and May (part of the five London ‘Magic Circle’ firms). During her time at Slaughter and May, she advised companies on allegations of anti-competitive behaviour and breaches of consumer protection law, as well as on obtaining antitrust approval for major acquisitions. She previously worked in Brussels and New York at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton (one of the most prestigious multinational law firms). Ms Raftery is a qualified Solicitor (England & Wales) and an Attorney (New York).

The visit will also include a tour of the legal department and of other public areas of the office.

6 March – commercial awareness visit to Linklaters LLP office in the City, for a guest lecture by Sima Ostrovsky. Ms Ostrovsky is a Managing Associate, who focuses on all aspects of competition law including merger control, cartels and advisory work in the areas of dominance, vertical and horizontal conduct. Ms Ostrovsky works with a number of high-profile clients in various industries and has been on secondment to firms in the consumer goods and payment systems sectors. She has previously worked for top law firms in South Africa and New York and is admitted to practice in both these jurisdictions. Ms Ostrovsky has also been a research clerk for the Constitutional Court of South Africa.

Founded in London in 1838, Linklaters is a member of the ‘Magic Circle’ of elite London law firms, and employs 2,310 lawyers across 30 offices in 20 countries. It has expertise in a wide variety of matters, including corporate and commercial, competition, banking, business and human rights, dispute resolution, crisis management, financial regulation, projects, tax, capital markets, employment and real estate.

The Linklaters recruitment team has also offered to do a session on the Linklaters application process and the opportunities that they have for LLB students. You can also find out more information on their career opportunities here.

Our study visit will also include a tour of the client areas of the office.

13 March– commercial awareness visit to Boies, Schiller & Flexner (UK) LLP office in the City, near Fleet Street, and guest lecture by Matthew Getz. Mr Getz is a Partner whose practice focuses on government and internal investigations, white collar defence, anti-corruption due diligence, and regulatory compliance. He has represented large multinational companies and financial institutions in some of the world’s largest anti-corruption internal investigations. He has represented both individuals and corporations under investigation by the UK Serious Fraud Office, U.S. Department of Justice and other regulators and prosecutors, and has successfully represented individuals challenging Interpol Red Notices and extradition. In December 2017, Mr Getz was selected by the U.S. Department of Commerce and the European Commission as an arbitrator for the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield Framework. Prior to law school, he was a financial journalist writing for leading publications in South Africa and the UK. He is qualified as a Solicitor (England & Wales) and Attorney (New York).

The study visit will also include a tour of the client areas of the office.

Boies, Schiller & Flexner is a leading boutique New York law firm, specialising in complex litigation matters, and famous for its involvement in high-profile cases (having represented the US Department of Justice in the antitrust action United States v Microsoft; Vice President Al Gore in Bush v Gore; and same-sex couples in Perry v Brown).

 

Immersive theatre meets Goldsmiths Law: The Justice Syndicate

Goldsmiths Law students, Fabian Higgins (left) and Olivia Burns (rights) playing the role of jurors in fanSHEN's immersive 'jury trial' theatre.

Goldsmiths Law Year 1 students, Fabian Higgins (left) and Olivia Burns (right), playing the role of jurors in fanSHEN’s immersive ‘jury trial’ theatre (at the Council Chamber, Deptford Town Hall)

Goldsmiths Law students were given a unique opportunity to take part in an immersive jury trial theatre.

The Law department, in collaboration with the MA/MFA in Computational Arts, were delighted to bring to Goldsmiths the pioneering Justice Syndicate production.

The Justice Syndicate is a piece of playable theatre drawing on a jury format. It explores how we fill in the gaps to make decisions.

The experience is a collaboration between recovering theatre company fanSHEN, computational artist Joe McAlister and neuroscientist Dr Kris De Meyer. The Law department would like to express its thanks to fanSHEN’s Rachel Briscoe and Dan Briscoe for the outstanding collaboration.

The experience was delivered in the context of the ‘English Legal System in a Global Context’ LLB Law module.

The Justice Syndicate play was recently reviewed by the Irish Times: “As details and testimony are rationed out through iPads, and group discussions take place against a countdown, the only thing beyond reasonable doubt in UK company Fanshen’s absorbing piece of interactive theatre are the quirks of human psychology.”

A review has also appeared in the Evening Standard, which noted: “Black Mirror’s Bandersnatch showed viewers that, given enough power and detachment, they could calmly make decisions that destroy someone’s life. But what about when the situation and its consequences seem real?”

Immersive jury trial theatreIn the three separate sessions that took place at Goldsmiths on October 9th, we had the following verdicts:

In the first ‘trial’, the jury delivered a majority verdict of Not guilty (11 jurors voted Not guilty – no juror voted Guilty). In the second ‘trial’, the ‘same defendant’, tried for the ‘same offence’, in the exact ‘same circumstances’, was found Guilty (1 juror voted Not guilty – 11 voted Guilty). In the third ‘trial’, the jury failed to reach a majority verdict (2 jurors voted Not Guilty  – 9 voted Guilty).
It is intriguing that groups so demographically similar reached such differing verdicts having seen the exact same evidence!
The activity became an immediate favourite for Goldsmiths Law students. Fabian Higgins said that “the dichotomy of a serious accusation in the face of evidence (or lack thereof) balanced with ideas of justice, empathy and compassion became manifest; the activity drew into question the ‘fairness’ of our justice system and the human desire to ‘do the right thing’. A really fantastic opportunity.” Larah Otoo focussed on how the setting allowed the students to immerse into the experience: “From the moment I entered the room there was a court-like atmosphere with a formal set up of a table in the centre with juror numbers displayed and notebooks which added to the immersive experience. All the evidence – character statements, knowledge from experts in the particular field of crime, information regarding whereabouts of the defendant’s phone, internet search history and online messaging conversations that the defendant had – was presented to us was via iPads. Shahaf Farooq said she was “totally immersed in the trial”. “It was an exceptionally eye-opening and amusing piece of the world of courtroom and Law that highlights the effect of taking a different approach to teaching Law.” Finally, Dominica Henriques noted she had been “impressed by the set up of the experience, how the location along with the combination of technology managed to create such an immersive environment. It felt quite real.” She added: “I’ve hugely benefited from the experience because it is unique, it is thought provoking and it is a practical way of learning.”
On January 29th, Goldsmiths Law and the MA/MFA in Computational Arts will host another three sessions of the Justice Syndicate, and our students are already looking forward to acting out again the crucial role of members of the jury.

 

Law firms require proactivity as a key legal skill when they are recruiting

Lawyers in negotiations mode (Photo by Tim Gouw)

Craig Sharpe, Marketing manager at Darlingtons Solicitors LLP, spoke to our LLB Law Year 1 students (14 October 2019) reflecting on his many years of experience in legal practice, focusing on what has changed in legal practice in the last 20 years and how students should prepare if they want to go into practicing as a solicitor, including advice on applications to law firms.

The seminar was integrated in the LLB Law Year 1 module ’21st Century Legal Skills’.

Craig emphasised that proactivity is now a key legal skill required by law firms when recruiting trainees.

Craig Sharpe, Marketing manager, Darlingtons solicitors

He explained that ‘in a world where brands and branding gain ever more importance and where powerful brands are entering into the legal marketplace, smaller law firms should be prepared to compete and respond’.

‘Lawyers are trained to be cautious and risk averse’, Craig noted. ‘This creates a dilemma and an irony in competing in today’s market. Law firms that don’t take some strategic risks and that don’t have a clear idea of who they are and what makes them attractive may pay a heavy price. Being “vanilla” is a risky strategy in itself’.

Craig invited the students to think of a firm’s website as a key marketing tool, taking examples from a small selection of websites and highlighting the following features of their marketing approach:

‘The best example of market position and a modern approach is perhaps Mishcon de Reya, explained Craig: ‘The firm embraces video which is a key asset still not utilised widely in the market. Above all, the website shows the firm has a very clear identity and is looking to attract clients looking for very dynamic lawyers who embrace change’.

He pointed to Pinsent Masons’ website for high quality, in-depth content, which is attracting potential clients looking for very specific expertise, especially in IP, technology law and associated areas.

An interesting example of a firm with clear and bold vision is central London based firm Gannons, Craig told the students; the firm’s website describes very clearly the areas of practice it covers and types of clients it would appeal to, relying on useful insights and case studies.

He then took Streathers Solicitors as an example of a firm that connects very well with people.

Finally, Craig referred to Darlingtons Solicitors as a firm that is highly visible online, with visibility equating to recognition and trusting the firm’s brand.

Following the lecture, our LLB students were invited to take part in a 500 word writing competition – on how solicitors in small and medium firms need to adapt to modern legal practice  – leading to the offer of two one-week placements with Darlingtons.

Here are some excerpts from their contributions:

Larah Otoo wrote:

“Adapting to a modern legal practice is comparable to the scientific concept of natural selection from the Darwinian evolutionary theory, more commonly known as ‘survival of the fittest’. Those that are able to adapt, thrive and continue to be successful; those that are unable to, will struggle to keep up and be omitted.”

Henry Norman observed that:

‘The internet has completely and ultimately transformed the way we look for and identify the services we need. With online services being provided after a few keystrokes, it is difficult to understand why sixty percent of SME law firms are not capitalising on this, with nearly three-thousand firms not having any online presence at all (Global Banking and Financial Review, 2018)’.

Alex Choi commented that:

‘Contrary to public perception, the SRA reports that over 90% of legal practitioners belong to small and medium firms. With almost 200,000 solicitors on the Roll in 2019, the legal market is more competitive and saturated than ever before. Against this background, solicitors from small and medium firms must develop a competitive edge through developing the firm’s strengths both externally and internally.’

Finally, Cléo Gasquet noted :

‘Smaller and independent law firms need to adopt less complacent attitudes and a more growth-mindset in order to adapt to modern legal practices. The Bellweather Report 2018: The Culture Clash – solicitor confidence vs client confidence, by Lexis Nexis UK, raises concerns over the complacency of smaller and more independent law firms. Research also shows that three-quarters (75%) of professionals from across the independent legal market believe that the legal landscape is changing at a faster pace than ever, yet only one-in-five acknowledge that significant change is needed within their own firm, in order to keep pace with industry’.

The LLB Law programme at Goldsmiths places significant emphasis on exposing students to the different career paths available to them when they study Law here, and connecting them with potential employers from the moment they become our students.

Read here in more detail how Goldsmiths Law prepares its students for the future.