This was the first UKCLE event in Scotland (that wasn’t attached to another event) for some time, and possibly the first event to involve representatives from all levels of legal education. The event was held in Edinburgh and was well attended by over 50 delegates – mainly from academic institutions (representing both the LLB and postgraduate diploma stage) but the legal profession was also widely represented by the Law Society of Scotland, HR directors and managers, heads of training and partners from law firms.
The first keynote from Alastair Robertson (HEA, Academy Scotland) covered a range of issues including the changing nature of the student learning experience, new ways of relating to businesses and the profession and forthcoming challenges: in particular how the four nations of the UK will contribute to devolved policy and the likely divergence that may lead to tensions. Relating to news earlier this week that England & Wales have a new framework for HE - will there be pressure to adopt similar or distinctly different policy in Scotland? Alastair also spoke of graduate attributes and what it means to be a graduate of a particular HEI or in a particular discipline such as law.
Prof Margaret Ross (University of Aberdeen) spoke about the diversity of the legal education student body and the study of law for its own sake. Pointing to Edinburgh University’s centenary of women in legal education, Margaret spoke of the first two women to gain a postgraduate LLB in 1909 who both had legal profession links in their family, but who did not, and could not, enter into the profession. The law society, at the time, decided to wait until the end of the Great War to see if they would have enough male members returning from the battle fields before considering whether to admit women – rather much a response to market forces than the emancipation of female lawyers!
Nevertheless, Margaret also indicated how some things have not changed – William Twining’s book Blackstone’s Tower relates a story where law students were directed to bring in a broadsheet newspaper and identify the items that had legal issues until the entirety of the paper had been considered – modern law students may well use electronic publications rather than the paper-copy but the learning experience remains the same. Less positive is the lack of change in terms of funding for legal education. Margaret made comparisons with medical practitioners, honorary NHS contracts and the general view that law is a professional subject that can be taught on a lower budget due to the absence of scientific labs etc.
Still to come, guest blog post from the Law Society of Scotland, and a review of the afternoon sessions!