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Goldsmiths appoints ‘legendary’ Clive Stafford Smith as a Visiting Professor in Law

credit: Facundo Arrizabalaga/EPA/Shutterstock (via Guardian)

We are thrilled to announce the appointment of Clive Stafford Smith OBE as a Visiting Professor in Law at Goldsmiths.

Clive has earned global admiration for his anti-death penalty work in the US. He is the founder of leading NGO Reprieve, who fight for people on death row, people held without charge or trial, people tortured and people targeted by illegal and lethal drone attacks. Through his pioneering legal practice and activist work, Clive has always strived to empower young people to protect human rights. His death penalty project in the US has over the years enabled hundreds of students to do life-saving, transformational work. His work defending Guantanamo detainees has been equally revolutionary. The Guardian describes his legendary status by highlighting his ‘intransigent, crusading spirit’.

“Clive instantly fascinates with the sharpness of thought and depth of knowledge he very naturally has on display when in conversation with you, and you are totally mesmerised by the strength and intrinsic nature of his conviction in doing justice for all; justice for the most vulnerable and alienated in our society, above all”, said our Head of Department, Prof Dimitrios Giannoulopoulos. “And that is before you even begin to consider what he has achieved already, through his fearless human rights practice, his pioneering initiatives, and through the work of the students, and young people, that he’s been so successful in mobilising around the right to fair trial, faced with the often inherent barbarity of the criminal justice system”, he added, before concluding:

“I cannot wait to introduce Clive to our students. Our principles and values as a department and community could not be more perfectly aligned. We’ll take huge inspiration from his work, and beam back that embedded passion for justice, equality and human rights, and our aspiration to set in motion legal education as a force for good and change”.

Clive’s latest initiative 3DC focusses on the objective of “empowering the next generation”, including through historic (and more modern) fictional trials (the ‘generation on trial’ initiative). 3DC “works to inspire [their] ‘apprentices’ to find and establish a career in which their talents meet their passion to right the damage done by [Clive’s] generation”.

After graduating from Columbia Law School in New York, Clive spent nine years as a lawyer with the Southern Center for Human Rights, working on death penalty cases and other civil rights issues. In 1993, Clive moved to New Orleans and set up the Louisiana Crisis Assistance Center, a non-profit law office specialising in the representation of poor people facing capital charges.

In total, Clive has represented over 300 prisoners facing the death penalty in the southern United States. While he only took on the cases of those who could not afford a lawyer – he has never been paid by a client – and always the most despised, he prevented the death penalty in all but six cases (a 98% “victory” rate).

Few lawyers ever take a case to the US Supreme Court – Clive has taken five, and every one of these people prevailed.

In 2001, when the US military base at Guantánamo Bay was pressed into service to hold suspected terrorists beyond the reach of the courts, Clive joined two other lawyers to sue for access to the detainees. He believed that the camp was an affront to democracy and the rule of law: his ultimate goal was to close Guantánamo and restore to the US and its allies their legitimacy as human rights champions. During those early days, Clive received death threats and was labelled a “traitor” for defending “terrorists”. It was three years before the Supreme Court finally allowed lawyers into the prison camp.

Meanwhile, Clive travelled the length and breadth of the Middle East to find the families of “disappeared” prisoners. He was undeterred by the interventions of unhappy US allies – including the Jordanian secret police, who took him into custody in 2004.

To date, Clive has helped secure the release of 69 prisoners from Guantánamo Bay (including every British prisoner), and still acts for 15 more. This is a phenomenal number – far more than any other lawyer or law firm – and demonstrates Clive’s peerless ability in his field. More recently, Clive has turned a strategic eye to other secret detention sites, including Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan and the British island of Diego Garcia.

Clive has received many awards and honours. In 2000 he was awarded the OBE for humanitarian services. He was a Soros Senior Fellow, Rowntree Visionary (2005) and Echoing Green Fellow (2005). In addition, he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from The Lawyer Magazine (2003) and The Law Society, the Benjamin Smith Award from the ACLU of Louisiana (2003), the Gandhi Peace Award (2004), a Lannan Foundation Cultural Freedom Award (2008), the International Freedom of the Press Award (2009), Unione Nazionale Cronisti Italiani (for the defence of Sami al Hajj), the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Award (2010), the Contrarian Prize (2014) and the Amnesty International Chair (2014).

Alongside these, Clive was ranked 6th on the 2009 list of Britain’s Most Powerful Lawyers (The Times, July 2009) and ranked 3rd on the 2009 “High Profile” British lawyer list (The Lawyer, September 2009).

Connecting theory and practice in critical human rights studies (spotlight on Dr Lena Holzer)

We are delighted to announce that Dr Lena Holzer has joined Goldsmiths as a Lecturer in Law.

Lena will be convening the Public Law and the Human Rights Act module (in Year 1 of the LLB), contributing to the Human Rights Law and Clinic module (in Year 3) and injecting specialist human rights law expertise into our programme, particularly through our LLM in International Human Rights (launching in September 2023!).

Lena is bringing to Goldsmiths excellent research capacity in the field of international law, gender justice and sports law.

The Q & A below offers is a first glimpse of Lena’s research, approach to teaching and contributions she is aiming to make to our programme.

Where did you work/study before joining Goldsmiths?

I received my PhD from the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva. My doctoral studies also included spending one year at King’s College London, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic I passed most of this time remotely. Before arriving at Goldsmiths, I taught in different university programmes in Geneva, Utrecht and Krems and worked for various human rights institutions, such as in Switzerland, Austria and Belgium.

What are your specialist areas in Law?

I focus in my research broadly on international human rights law and specifically on how international law impacts gender relations in society. My PhD thesis examined how international law shapes the existence of the gender binary in law. Another area of my research is sports law and its influences on different structures of inequality, such as sexism, racism and transphobia.

What is your role in Goldsmiths’ Law programme?

I will convene the Public Law and the Human Rights Act module and further contribute to the Human Rights Law and Clinic module. I will also be involved in coordinating the final year dissertation and develop my own research projects, focusing particularly on sports, human rights and gender equality.

What is your approach to teaching? What are your plans for the Public Law and the Human Rights Act module for the next academic year?

I enjoy teaching in an interactive manner that requires students to apply theoretical knowledge to real world issues. Since law often reflects past and current power relations, I usually encourage my students to question why certain laws exist, what they do in practice and how they could be changed to foster equality. Hence, I believe that an important task of a law lecturer is to provide students with the tools to critically assess law, and to show how they can use this knowledge in their future professions or current jobs.

Yet, a critical engagement with laws always entails knowing the technicalities and doctrines of laws and legal systems. This is why I will aim in my course on Public Law and the Human Rights Act to teach students the legalistic aspects of UK public law and human rights system, whilst enhancing their sensibilities to critically interrogate the sources of law discussed. In line with the general approach of Goldsmiths’ Law Department, I will analyse public law in its current socio-political context by examining the impact of recent legal developments, such as Brexit. At times, I will also draw the comparison to foreign legal systems to show the specificities of and controversies around the UK public law and human rights system.

You have experience in teaching in interdisciplinary programmes. How will you draw on this experience for your work at Goldsmiths Law?

I will certainly draw on my experience of studying and teaching in interdisciplinary programmes in my work at Goldsmiths since I believe that this can help to prepare the students for their careers as lawyers. I think that my interdisciplinary academic profile has allowed me to develop the capacity to teach law to a broad audience with different interests and background knowledges. This is crucial for a law programme that aims at making legal education accessible and practice-oriented. I am further convinced that lawyers can more effectively regulate an issue if they understand the subject matter from different angles, which is why I will encourage my students to read broadly and also familiarise themselves with literature from other disciplines. Moreover, as lawyers end up working in all types of professions these days, it becomes even more important to have transversal skills and a grasp of interdisciplinary debates.

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

I am excited to join a department that strives towards teaching a new generation of lawyers the legal tools for promoting equality, justice and a sustainable future. The educational approach of Goldsmiths will allow me to connect my passion for theoretical engagements with laws with a practice-oriented approach that can help to generate critical human rights lawyers. I am specifically looking forward to working in an environment that fosters creative and critical thinking and to being surrounded by highly motivated colleagues. Not only will I be able to draw inspiration from my colleagues’ teaching methods and research, but I will also learn from my students who will push me to question my own approaches and perspectives.

Goldsmiths awards Rt Hon Sir Rabinder Singh a Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, of the University of London

Lord Justice Singh awarded honorary LLD from Goldsmiths University of londonWe are thrilled to announce that Goldsmiths has awarded The Right Honourable Sir Rabinder Singh a Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, of the University of London.

Lord Justice Singh accepted his award in our graduation ceremony at the Queen Elizabeth II Centre in Westminster. In his acceptance speech, he noted how “grateful” he was to receive the honorary degree “as we celebrate[d] [the students’] success and, in particular, the achievements of the first cohort of students at Goldsmiths who have completed a law degree”.

Lord Justice Singh started his speech by noting: “people sometimes ask me if I come from a family of lawyers. Some even ask me if my father was a judge.  I suppose they assume that these things run in the family.  The answer is No. I was the first lawyer in my family and the first judge.  My ancestors lived and worked in what was then north-western India, in the Lahore region, which became part of Pakistan at the time of independence and partition in 1947.  My parents moved to Delhi and, later, in the 1960s came to this country.  I grew up in Bristol.”

He continued: “Like many immigrants my parents had to put up with verbal and even physical abuse.  Like many immigrants, they regarded education as the key to their children’s future success.  And like many immigrants they made sacrifices in order to support me with that hope in their hearts.  I remember my father would say to me that, whatever became of me, I should never forget others who may not have been so fortunate and, in particular, that I should help them and not kick away the ladder after me.”

from left to right: Head of department of Goldsmiths Law, Prof Dimitrios Giannoulopoulos. Dinah Caine CBE, Chair of Council. Lord Justice Singh. Prof Frances Corner OBE, Warden of Goldsmiths.

Lord Justice of the Court of Appeal and President of the Investigatory Powers Tribunal, and the author of The Future of Human Rights in the United Kingdom (1997) and The Unity of Law (2022), Sir Rabinder is an authority on the recent development of the common law with particular reference to the field of human rights and the law of privacy. Called to the Bar in 1989, he became a QC in 2002. Appointed a High Court Judge (Queen’s Bench Division) in 2011, he became a Lord Justice of Appeal and a member of the Privy Council in 2017, and President of the Investigatory Powers Tribunal the following year. He has been an Honorary Professor of Law at Nottingham University since 2007, visiting Professor of Law at the London School of Economics from 2003 to 2009, and a Visiting Fellow, Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, from 2016 to 2019.

Lord Justice Singh read law at Trinity College, Cambridge, before being awarded a Harkness Fellowship to study and travel in the United States, where he took a Master of Laws degree from the University of California, Berkeley.

Lord Justice Singh with Goldsmiths Law faculty: from top left to bottom right: Prof Dimitrios Giannoulopoulos. Dr Sheri Labenski. Dr Dagmar Myslinska. Dr Sally Adams. Dr Aysem Diker Vanberg. Dr Plamen Dinev. Dr Miranda Bevan, and Lord Justice Singh.

In 2000, he became one of the founding members of Matrix Chambers. Two years later, at the age of 38, Lord Justice Singh became one of the youngest people to be awarded silk.

He was Chair of the Bar Council Equality and Diversity Committee (Race and Religion) from 2004 to 2006, and Chair of the Administrative Law Bar Association from 2006 to 2008. In 2009 he was elected a Bencher of Lincoln’s Inn.

Born in Delhi, Lord Justice Singh grew up in Bristol, attending Bristol Grammar School, then a direct grant grammar school, after being awarded a local authority scholarship. He decided that he wanted to be a barrister while still at school, partly influenced by the film of Harper Lee’s book, To Kill a Mockingbird, starring Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch, a lawyer in the American South, who defends a black man accused of raping a white woman. ‘Atticus Finch talks about the law as the great equaliser’, he explains. ‘It’s clear he is a lawyer who regards himself as having a vocation. He will do his duty, even if he knows he’s going to lose the case, because it’s the right and just thing to do’.

Lord Justice Singh says he wonders whether he has subconsciously modelled himself on Peck’s portrayal of Finch. He was struck by one particular scene in which the father of the alleged victim spits in Finch’s face. For an instant, Finch thinks about retaliating, before maintaining both his silence and his dignity by doing nothing other than to take out his handkerchief and wipe his face.

 

You can read Lord Justice Singh’s full acceptance speech here: Lord Justice Singh acceptance speech 26 July 2022

The post draws on Professor Alan Downing’s oration speech at the graduation ceremony, which can be read in its entirety here: Prof Alan Downing speech

NSS results: Goldsmiths Law best in the UK (and top 3-7 in the UK) for learning, teaching and the student experience!

Our Department of Law has achieved outstanding positionings and student satisfaction rates in the National Student Survey, conducted by Ipsos MORI on behalf of the Office for Students, in which nearly half a million students across the UK are invited to participate every year. The survey is a key component of the quality assurance and wider regulatory landscape in UK higher education.

We are thrilled to announce that, based on NSS satisfaction rate results published last week, we are the No. 1 Law department in the UK for the organisation and management of our LLB degree (with a 94 per cent satisfaction rate), and the (joint) top Law School in the UK based on whether teaching in the LLB Law course is ‘intellectually stimulating’ (with 100 per cent satisfaction rate); we are (joint) No. 4 in the UK, best Law School in London and best Law School in the South of England, for quality of teaching more broadly.

Class of 2022 (who took part in the NSS), when they started their LLB journey in September 2019.

A 92 per cent satisfaction rate on the question of whether the programme has “challenged [students] to achieve [their] best work” has us at No. 5 in the country (top in London, top in the South of England) and tells the Goldsmiths Law story very well; we aspire to challenge our students intellectually every step of the way, immerse them in formal legal environments, let them feel fully confident in being there, and about themselves, empower them to pursue any career path they choose to pursue, traditional destinations or less traditional so, and more modern paths, appropriate for 21st century graduates, even disruptive ones.

Our innovative approach to ‘learning opportunities’ in the degree (where we embed in contact time, in all our modules, across Years 1-3 of the LLB, invaluable learning opportunities that go outside learning in the classroom e.g. interactive workshops and trial observations at the Supreme Court and ‘Old Bailey’, immersive jury trials, and specialist workshops by legal professionals, human rights NGOs and technology experts) has brought us impressive recognition in this area, where we rank No. 3 in the UK, No. 1 Law School in London, and No. 1 Law School in the South of England. On the more specific question of whether the course has provided students opportunities to apply what they have learnt, we rank No. 3 in the UK, a reflection of our very substantial focus on integrating theory and practice throughout the degree, from experiential learning opportunities and placements to an Advocacy-based Criminal Evidence module, a Human Rights Law & Clinic module and preparation for the new Solicitors Qualifying Examination.

Class of 2022 taking part in a workshop at the UK Supreme Court (September 2019, above left) and participating in a criminal law mock trial at the Old Bailey (March 2022, above right).

Our students value our close-knit, empathetic learning community above all things in the degree. The students who filled the NSS were the inaugural cohort for our LLB Law programme and suffered unprecedented disruption as a result of the pandemic. However, our emphasis on live, synchronous, online lectures during lockdown periods, which allowed us to have unique opportunities to interact with them even at that most challenging of times, the speed with which we returned to 100 per cent face-to-face delivery (from September 2021, being one of the first Law Schools to achieve this in the UK) and the close working and personal relationship that both academics and students cherish in our department, must explain why student satisfaction in this area has us as No. 4 in the UK, and best Law School in London, for academic support.

Even in the autumn of 2020, we were continuing with in person activity, in large, well-ventilated rooms (photo: the Council Chamber at the time of the pandemic, which we were using for our Wednesday experiential activities—mock trials, debating etc—throughout the pandemic, outside periods of lockdown).

The survey allows students to (anonymously) enter free text comments (in addition to rating their departments across different areas). In submitting such comments, one of the students focussed on ‘the way [the Department] managed our course in response to COVID. Maintaining live online lectures, rather than pre-recording like most others. Getting back to face-to-face teaching in large, ventilated, socially distanced spaces as soon as possible and generally being very communicative, has been wonderful.’

 

Students and staff catch up, over coffee, at the Royal Society of Arts in the Strand, after a field trip in London.

Another student spoke about the distinctiveness and personal character of the student experience at Goldsmiths (we are very grateful for such heart-warming words): ‘For the size of our cohort, it has been an amazingly good experience in terms of how lucky I have been to get to know them all. I hear often from my friends in departments with bigger cohorts that they feel disincentivised by having never really gotten to know their lecturers personally even in three years – for us that could not be further from the truth. They have always encouraged us not only with our submissions but with a vast array of extracurricular activities, trips, and invitations to guest lectures. The things I have taken part in now sit proudly on my CV and give me confidence in moving forward once leaving Goldsmiths. When I look back at myself 3 years ago until now, I have flourished, the degree has equipped me with everything I need to begin a lifelong career in law; including the heads up about a potential job which I went and interviewed for and got, first time.

To look at other areas surveyed in the NSS: we are the No. 1 Law department in London (No. 7 in the UK), for assessment and feedback, an area that traditionally Law departments find challenging in the context of the NSS. Goldsmiths Law invests huge energies in innovating in this area, particularly by having introduced portfolio/reflective journal-based assessment by student engagement and participation, which empowers a much broader range of learners to achieve well academically and substantially enhances student satisfaction. On the more specific question of whether marking and assessment has been fair, we are ranked No. 3 in the country.

We are No. 5 in the UK, No. 1 in London and No. 1 in the South of England, for learning resources. We are delighted with this result, as we have sought to innovate in this area since launching our degree, particularly by opting for a ground-breaking digital library, which includes electronic access to e-textbooks for virtually all modules in the LLB degree, freeing our students from the significant extra cost of purchasing these textbooks or the anxiety of securing one of the hard copies available through a library loan. Lecture week-by-lecture week, we also provide a very analytical digital reading list, in all our modules, giving students quick access to a plethora of electronic resources aimed to support their learning, from journal articles and e-book chapters to governmental reports, newspaper articles and even relevant podcasts, videos, films and other electronic recordings.

All this was picked up very accurately by one of the anonymous free text student comments: ‘The Law Department has made the course better accessible to low-income students by providing most of the reading throughout the course online. All my modules have been intellectually stimulating and enjoyable. In spite of the pandemic, many opportunities have been provided to us to expand our knowledge outside the university.’

The survey asks students whether they ‘feel part of a community of staff and students’ and whether they have had the right opportunities to work with other students as part of [their] course’, and in this area too we have achieved an outstanding result: No. 3 in the UK, best in London and best in the South of England.

With a group of our final year students (and Year 1 students) in our inaugural summer school in Athens (June 2022), at the the residence of the British Ambassador in Athens (above left), Matthew Lodge, and at “Mikrolimano” in the port of Piraeus (above right), at a social and cultural outing during the programme, cementing solid friendships, between students, and between students and staff.

Similarly, the survey asks students whether they have had the right opportunities to provide feedback on their course, whether staff value students’ views and opinions about the course and whether it is clear how students’ feedback on the course has been acted on. With 90 per cent satisfaction rate on these questions, we are No. 4 in the UK and the No. 1 Law department in London. On the important question of whether it is clear to students how their feedback has been acted on, we are ranked No. 3 in the UK.

The overall student satisfaction rate is an impressive 91 per cent for the LLB Law programme.

The Head of the Department, Inaugural Professor in Law at Goldsmiths, Dimitrios Giannoulopoulos, commented: ‘From the very first moment of conceiving the idea for a Law programme, and Law department, at Goldsmiths, we strongly aspired to create a fresh pedagogical approach to legal education, one that would do justice to what Goldsmiths has always stood for, intellectually and culturally, within the University of London and beyond: an unceasing passion for widening participation and empowering young people. With an uncompromising attachment to major liberal democratic values—social justice, equality, fairness, human rights, cosmopolitanism, the rule of law—our Law programmes and department have attracted students from an impressive range of destinations and backgrounds, non-traditional backgrounds in many cases. And since then, we have been most privileged to work with refreshingly vibrant, hugely talented young people, while also drawing on the experience and intelligence, and superb work ethic, that some more mature students have graciously injected into our degree.’

Dimitrios added: ‘In view of all this, and in view of the ways in which our most dynamic faculty has connected with our student body since launch, exposing them to major contemporary debates, expecting nothing less from them than absolute commitment to being critical thinkers (never taking legislation and case law at face value), these outstanding NSS results, that we are in cloud 9 about, are simply a (wonderful) confirmation of what we knew already, about how special a programme we feel we are beginning to build, and how strong a bond—an unbreakable bond—we have cemented with our students.’

Class of 2022 visiting the legal department of Facebook in London (February 2020)

As one of the students who participated in the NSS put it (through the anonymous free text comments again), the Law faculty “have been incredibly helpful and supportive and have often gone the extra mile to help me with issues, advocating on my behalf, putting me in contact with helpful people and always demonstrating that they care about us. They have always gone over and above to support us.” The student added that “the course has really been brought to life with a variety of teaching techniques, visits to law firms, courts and various offices. Not to mention that the very particular flavour of studying law at Goldsmiths has been wonderful, always encouraging us to critique the law, understand it in context and see the implications through a socio-legal lens.

Exposing our students to formal environments, giving them confidence to pursue the careers they desire: Head of Department, Prof Dimitrios Giannoulopoulos, and Goldsmiths Law students, presenting the concluding observations of our summer school to the British Ambassador in Athens (June 2022)

The Head of the Department added: “These NSS results are spectacular for us, and I cannot find the words to thank our students for the confidence they have invested us with, their unshaken belief in us. I am equally grateful to all my colleagues, who give everything they have, week in, week out, to ensure our vision manifests itself, with major aspects of our programme, but with the more trivial functions too, the day-to-day support, which matters.”

And he noted in conclusion: “These results follow on from equally exciting news about our research; we were submitted to the REF 2021 (with the Sociology department) and were again delighted to have contributed, through our publications, to one of the top research performances in the country (on publications/‘research outputs’). As we’re preparing to launch an exciting range of postgraduate/LLM degrees from September 2023, our teaching and research strengths are perfectly aligned and provide unique momentum for us; as we continue to grow, we’re hugely looking forward to new generations of Goldsmiths students and leading Law faculty joining us and becoming an integral part of who we are (and who we want to be in the future).”

Human rights workshop at Varndean College in Brighton

Our Head of Department, Prof Dimitrios Giannoulopoulos, delivered a human rights workshop at Varndean College, one of the most dynamic and successful Colleges in Brighton, with an outstanding academic track record and real community ethos. We are very thankful to the Head of the Law programme there, Jo Hambleton, for inviting us to the College, and the exceptional hospitality they have shown us.

Prof Giannoulopoulos delivered a two hour lecture, to a 70 student large assembly, bringing together A level students from Law, Politics, and Philosophy, critically analysing the government’s proposals to repeal the Human Rights Act and replace it with a British Bill of Rights. This is a human rights reform project that is unique, Dimitrios argued, in seeking to undermine, rather than reinforce, human rights, all the more so at a time when it could not be more urgent to renew our commitment to human rights and international law, in view of the current crisis of liberal democratic values that we witness across the world, including in western liberal democracies, unfortunately in the UK too.

Goldsmiths LLB student, Fabian Higgins, discussing the crucial role of human rights in regulating the use of Facial Recognition technologies

Dimitrios was joined by our final year student (and very soon to be a graduate student) Fabian Higgins, who contributed crucial insights on the positive impact that the Human Rights Act and the European Convention on Human Rights have had in the UK, including in relation to regulating the impact of modern technologies upon human rights or anti-racism. It gave us unique pleasure to see Fabian connect so effectively with the A level students; we hope that all those outstanding Varndean students who will go on to study Law, Politics, Philosophy or similar subjects at University will have found great inspiration in Fabian’s example.

We were also very impressed by the engagement that Varndean students showed, and pointed questions they asked. Deep scepticism seemed to quickly form around the government’s plan to repeal the Human Rights Act.

The workshop was delivered in the context of the Knowing our Rights project, which Prof Giannoulopoulos launched in 2017 with support from the Open Society Foundations. Since launch, Prof Giannoulopoulos and his team have taught human rights to over 2,500 students across a number of secondary schools and Colleges in London and beyond. Knowing our Rights workshops in schools are also embedded in the Human Rights Law & Clinic module in Year 3 of the LLB programme. Goldsmiths Law students taking this Clinic are given the unique opportunity to engage College students in important debates around the future of human rights in the UK.

To learn more about our LLB programmes, see here.

 

Our students write: The urgent need to regulate Drone Strikes

In this piece, second year law student Samuel Cardwell draws on the knowledge he gained from participating in Goldsmiths Law’s Counter-Terrorism and Human Rights Law and Policy Clinic to examine the human rights implications of using drone strikes as part of the War on Terror.

Surveying a wide array of sources, Cardwell uses hard-facts and legal analysis to highlight the damage that drone strikes have on not just the victims but the perpetrators too.

‘Drone strikes lower the threshold for violent action and trivialise killing’, writes Cardwell. ‘The operator is distanced from the scene of the violence and only views it through pixels on a screen’, which ‘distance the emotion from them’. ‘International law must apply to drone strikes to prevent global misuse of this technology’, he concludes.

Read the blog here: The urgent need to regulate Drone Strikes.

 

Discounted SQE preparation with BARBRI collaboration

  • Goldsmiths’ students will now have access to an exclusive discount for BARBRI SQE1 Prep.
  • Students at Goldsmiths engage with SQE subjects and methodologies and can select an SQE module, during their LLB degree.
  • BARBRI will now be the preferred SQE provider for Goldsmiths, where students can successfully prepare to sit the examination.
  • This collaboration will broaden access to the profession.

We are delighted to announce our collaboration with global legal education provider, BARBRI, to offer increased access to Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE) preparation.

Officially introduced by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) in 2021 to diversify the profession, the SQE will replace the Legal Practice Course (LPC) as the new route to qualification for aspiring lawyers in England and Wales. With over 1,000 candidates receiving their inaugural SQE1 results in January 2022, more prospective lawyers are now hoping to pursue the SQE.

Through this timely collaboration, our aspiring lawyers at Goldsmiths will be able to prepare for the SQE1 with BARBRI at a discounted rate. Developed by internationally renowned legal and training experts, BARBRI’s SQE Prep has been carefully crafted with LawTech at its core to equip students with the in-depth knowledge and tools needed to achieve SQE success.

BARBRI’s courses help students prepare for both elements – SQE1 and SQE2 – which include multiple-choice questions and skills assessments.

Commenting on the collaboration, Professor Dimitrios Giannoulopoulos, Head of Department of Law at Goldsmiths, said: “Goldsmiths has a rich academic heritage, and we pride ourselves on our thought-provoking environment and ability to innovate, including with the outward-looking approach we take to legal education. This collaboration with BARBRI will bolster our ethos of constantly pursuing synergies between legal theory and professional practice and will support our students and alumni beyond their university experience to thrive in their future endeavours.”

“We were one of the first Law Schools in the UK to incorporate SQE content and methodologies into our degree, as early as 2019. We did that by introducing a specialist SQE module in the final year of studies and embedding SQE materials across a range of foundation and elective modules. We were looking to complete this preparation programme for the SQE by carefully selecting a preferred external SQE provider, and we are thrilled that we will be working with BARBRI. As the preferred SQE destination for our students, we are looking forward to creating opportunities for BARBRI to work with them throughout their degrees. All this will ensure our aspiring lawyers can prepare for the new SQE with tried and tested preparation methods and access mentor support from industry experts to ensure success.”

Chris Jorgenson, Senior Director of Institutional Partnerships for BARBRI, said: “We’re proud to be working with Goldsmiths to support their students and widen access to our SQE Prep courses. We’re proactively working with carefully selected university partners and firms to help increase accessibility and ensure we are creating a profession that is truly representative of society today. We appreciate that this is a key mission for the SRA but to truly make this achievable, education providers, firms and third-party organisations all have an essential role to play. We look forward to seeing Goldsmiths’ graduates successfully navigate the SQE pathway and effectuate positive change in society as solicitors.”

​​BARBRI’s innovative testing and learning technologies provide future solicitors with the best opportunity to succeed. It offers a range of full-time and part-time course options to prepare candidates for SQE success.

 

 

In house lawyer visit to leading mobile/broadband firm Liberty Global

As part of teaching in the SQE (Solicitors Qualifying Examination) module, our Year 3 students have had the exceptional opportunity to visit the offices of Liberty Global, a world leader in converged broadband, video and mobile communications and an active investor in cutting-edge infrastructure, content and technology ventures, who invest in fibre-based and 5G networks.

We are very thankful to Andrea Murray for speaking to our students for the role of the in house lawyer in a major multinational firm like Liberty Global, and the career opportunities that exist there. Andrea is a senior lawyer at Virgin Media 02, one of the largest mobile and broadband companies in the UK which is co-owned by Liberty Global.  Andrea was joined  by Hannah Beresford, a legal adviser at Liberty Global, who also advised on the SQE.

The visit was organised by the convenor of the SQE module, our Lecturer in Legal Practice, Dr Sally Adams. Dr Aysem Diker Vanberg also joined the visit with some of her Commercial Law students.

Letter condemning Russian aggression in Ukraine

Joining forces with 90 leading legal academics and other academic scholars, barristers, solicitors and other legal professionals, NGO experts and politicians, from across the UK and other parts of Europe, Goldsmiths Law academics have drafted, signed and widely circulated an open letter that:

(a) condemns the Russian Federation’s criminal aggression in Ukraine and all that follows from it;

(b) calls upon the UK, USA and France – the three Permanent Five Members of the Security Council – to put political pressure on Russia to accept the authority of both the ICJ and ICC for judicial resolution (noting that it is a time of reckoning for China too, which has the opportunity to support the above action).

(c) (failing that) calls for an ad hoc justice mechanism to bring Putin, and those around him, to justice.

The letter has been forwarded to the Foreign Secretary in the UK, and will be sent to relevant authorities in the United States and France too.

The Law Society Gazzette, East London Lines and The Times have reported on the initiative.

Faced with untold humanitarian tragedy, and the blatant violations of international law committed by Putin in Ukraine, our Universities, and key external organisations that UK Universities are partnering with, have a moral responsibility to actively defend international law and the rule of law, and do what they can to help stop the excruciating human suffering in the cities and towns, and hospitals, maternity wards and schools, and the residential houses that Russian aggression has indiscriminately bombed in Ukraine, and to show solidarity with the Ukrainian people.

Our letter can be downloaded from here: Letter to Foreign Secretary on Russian aggression in Ukraine and international law

For media inquiries, please email Law@gold.ac.uk

How and why commercial law firms are changing their recruitment processes. What can students do to adapt to the changes?

On March 3d, we had the pleasure of welcoming to Goldsmiths (virtually) Craig Sharpe, a marketing consultant with solicitors firm Axiom DWFM. Craig spoke to students about how commercial law firms are changing their recruitment practices, and how they can adapt to changes. In this blog posts, he offers a more detailed analysis on this question.

A useful starting point in addressing the above question is to recognise that most if not all of the changes impacting the legal sector in the last 10-15 years apply equally to almost all other service sectors. In the legal sector, due to longstanding traditions and operating as regulated profession, change has been slower but has gathered pace.

Consequently, the following points will hopefully be useful to  students generally.

Causes of major change in the legal sector

  • Supply and demand – there has been a significant long term increase in the number of lawyers qualifying. For many areas of legal practice there has not been a commensurate increase in the demand for legal services and advice. Where a dynamic arises of an oversupply, buyers gain the advantage and this a major cause of significantly increased competition in the legal market.
  • The internet – the internet has impacted every business sector and law is no exception. Lawyers no longer have a monopoly on information and prospective clients can and invariably do research their legal issues and needs on the internet. Prospective clients will also generally look at the availability (where they are looking for local advice) and reputation of lawyers and law firms online, so developing a strong presence and good reputation online, both for firms and individuals is strongly advisable . Clients are increasingly looking for lawyers to be good overall business advisers as well as good technical lawyers. Clients expect a higher degree of “commercial awareness”, proactivity and sometimes a degree of risk sharing between lawyers and clients.
  • Erradication of professional exclusivity – historically, only qualified lawyers could offer legal advice but this has changed over the last 15-20 years. It is now possible for other professional service providers and even large businesses to employ lawyers and to offer some legal services themselves i.e not via law firms. Accountants, for example, may now offer some legal advice and services and they have an advantage over lawyers in that they will often have far more regular contact with clients than lawyers do (as many clients traditionally only contact lawyers for a specific need which may not occur that regularly). So, competitive forces are compelling law firms and individual lawyers to be far more dynamic and to consider client needs in a more holistic manner – in other words, this is another example of the importance of “commercial awareness”.

Impact of changes on how law firms recruit

Whilst few law firms will openly admit it, the competitive and client pressures outlined above have compelled them to make significant changes to stay competitive.

Some law firms have adopted an approach of embracing and getting ahead of the changes in business and the legal sector. Others are still resisting the changes as much as they can or burying their heads in the sand but those firms are facing a difficult future.

So, how are the changes reflected in legal recruitment, especially recruitment of paralegals and trainees? A few examples include :

  • Law firms specifically testing applicants’ mentality, adaptability, ability to think creatively about business scenarios as well as legal scenarios and assigning a significant amount of importance to these aspects as well as legal skills and acumen.
  • An increase in the number of firms bringing in paralegals which enables the firm to better gauge the applicant’s ability to demonstrate dynamism, team play, a can do and mature approach when contrasted with the traditional recruitment approach which only offers a brief “snapshot” of the candidate. In other words, because recruiting staff with the right mentality as described above is so important in an ultra-competitive market, this is a “try before you buy” approach.

Practical ways students can prepare before approaching law firms

Given the skillsets and mindsets law firms are looking for are now often going beyond legal skills, it make sense for students to develop skills and a business approach before applying to them. There is no 100% right answer or approach but it may be worth considering :

  • Getting as much varied and practical business experience as you can – anything that is customer focused is good but sales and marketing are especially good areas.
  • Start thinking about the importance and value of building your contacts. Spotting networking opportunities, opportunities to help others, make introductions and connect with people and build relationships requires a mindset that often comes from habit. As the classic marketing phrase states “it’s a process not an event”.
  • Read some general business skills books – there are a plethora on amazon. A few examples, (not recommendations) are this book and also this one.
  • For more commercial law firms, an understanding of or some experience or skills in IP is very useful. Almost all commercial contracts and/or transactions have IP elements now.

Craig Sharpe is a marketing consultant with Axiom DWFM. Prior to his marketing career, Craig practised as a civil and commercial lawyer for nearly 15 years.