LEGAL EDUCATION & TRAINING
SELECT ARTICLES & BOOK CHAPTERS
Academic Judgement and the Force of Law, 2018.
An article which explores whether higher education degree classification algorithms which do not permit the exercise of academic judgement in borderline cases are vulnerable to challenge before the UK Administrative Court.
Disruptive Innovations: The Case of the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) (4.3.2020).
One highly significant source of information about how SQE is likely to play out in the legal education and training landscape is the SRA’s recently published list of training providers. These are organisations that will “deliver SQE education, tutoring or training services...and/or produce SQE-related study materials and resources…” (SRA website). Although it is provisional and incomplete, the list is bound to raise concerns that, without producing any discernible benefit, SQE has the potential to disrupt existing networks of university/HE law schools, and to undermine the long collaboration which exists between those law schools and academic law publishers - thereby needlessly disrupting the values underpinning legal education which law schools and law publishers have worked through in common.
An End to the "Management" of Racism in British Universities? (8. 11. 2019).
This commentary post responds to the findings and recommendations of the investigation into racial harassment in British universities which was conducted by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC). It argues that the report shows evidence that the EHRC is prepared to deploy the disciplined force of law against the increasingly undisciplined force of management. The EHRC report serves as a warning to university senior managers that the interests of the universities in which they are employed lie in addressing racial discrimination and harassment, not in managing it.
Inflating the BAME Attainment Gap: A Response to the Consultation Report on Degree Grade Inflation (28.1.2019).
In response to concerns over degree grade inflation, UK government agencies commissioned a number of reports on university practices relating to degree classification decisions, the most significant of which was the Universities UK (UUK), Guild HE, and the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA report titled Degree Classification: Transparent, Consistent and Fair Academic Standards. This commentary argues that the findings and recommendations contained in this report (if accepted) will almost certainly increase the attainment gap of black and minority ethnic groups in the UK’s universities. The report findings will almost certainly place pressure on post 1992 universities (where the majority of BAME students study) to develop more restrictive degree classification processes - despite the fact that these processes already produce proportionately fewer higher degrees than are awarded in pre-1992 universities.
Access, Attainment, and the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) (9.11.2018).
The claim by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) that the new qualifying examination framework for solicitors - due to be implemented in September 2021 - will improve access to the profession of black and minority ethnic students has been greeted with much scepticism by university law schools. Whilst acknowledging the potentially insurmountable difficulties SRA may face in achieving its access objectives, the commentary highlights the fact that universities and their law schools must not allow concerns over SQE to detract them from addressing their role in producing and maintaining the BAME attainment gap in law.
Degree Algorithms and the Law (16.3.2018).
This is a commentary on the Universities UK and Guild HE 2017 report on the policies and guidance (algorithms) which inform university degree classification decisions. It focuses on the findings in the report relating to the role the judgement of expert examiners plays in cases where the class of degree to be awarded to a student is not obvious. In such cases, the report found that most institutions used automatic algorithms to decide on borderline degree classification cases. The commentary explores whether the practice of deciding degree classifications by automatic algorithm is consistent with administrative law principles governing the fettering of discretion. An extended version of this commentary can be found in the article “Academic Judgement and the Force of Law” (2018).
Qualifying Law Degree 2020 (9.1.2018).
This commentary concerns the Solicitors Regulatory Authority’s (SRA) proposal to replace with a single qualification exam (SQE) all current qualification requirements for those seeking to enter the Solicitors’ profession The scheme is expected to come in to effect in 2021 - a year later than originally planned. The commentary argues that SQE signals the end of the legal profession’s control over the content of the university qualifying law degree. It argues that it is for law school associations - like the Association of Law Teachers - to ensure that the basic idea behind the qualifying law degree remains - viz - that there is a core of subject specific knowledge and general skills which all law schools should include in their curriculum. More generally it reflects on how law school associations can strengthen their remit so as to ensure that law schools can in future respond more effectively and collectively to significant developments in the legal education and training landscape.
Decolonising Curricula: A Legal Case (4.12.2017).
On 14 June 2017, a group of Cambridge University students posted an open letter to their English Faculty requesting the decolonisation of reading lists. Their action attracted much media attention and the interest of many public intellectuals. This commentary consists of a legal reading of the letter, highlighting areas where the public sector equality obligation contained in section 149 of the Equality Act 2010 might apply to the Cambridge students’ situation.
Law Schools and a Presumption of Unlawful Discrimination (20.11.2017).
Prompted by the ongoing investigation by the Equality and Human Rights Commission into racial harassment in higher education , this commentary argues that law schools hold the expertise to support universities in ensuring that their treatment of black and minority ethnic students and staff is consistent with the requirements of the Equality Act 2010. It considers the implications of the fact many universities have not fully transcended the position of relative legal autonomy which they enjoyed under the University Visitor’s jurisdiction, concluding that, as a result (and in spite of the urgent need to tackle racial discrimination) universities may not immediately welcome the kind of intervention from aw schools which the commentary post advocates.
Law Schools, Legal Power and Legal Services (15.11.2017).
This commentary draws upon Walter Benjamin’s 1921 essay “Critique of Violence” in order to contemplate the role of law schools in ensuring that the most marginalised in society are not deprived of the capacity to use the law to secure fundamental human and socio-economic rights. An expanded version of the argument can be found in the article “Walter Benjamin, Race and the Critique of Rights”, (April 2019), Griffith Law Review, which can be accessed from the Legal Theory page of this website.
The UK Legal Services Act, and the Need for a Theory of Law (10.10.2017).
This is a revised text of a lecture delivered at the Shue Yan University, Hong Kong. It argues that the statement of regulatory objectives contained in section 1(a)-(h) of the Legal Services Act 2007 recognises a narrowing gap between the theory and practice of law. It argues that law schools which align themselves to the critical legal studies movement are particularly well-placed to inculcate the skills needed to serve the market in legal services which the Legal Services Act 2007 constructs.
BOOK REVIEWS & CASE NOTES
A Short Legal Career in the Law School. A Review of Chris Ashford and Paul Mckeown, Social Justice and Legal Education, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2018. 325 pp. £75.00 (HB). ISBN: 978-1-5275-0646-6.
Because the number of individuals studying law far outstrips employment opportunities within the legal profession, many students will experience legal practice only during their university degree studies. This review explores the implications of this mismatch on clinical legal education in general, and the university legal advice clinic in particular.
Barton v Wright Hassall LLP .
In this case, the Supreme Court decided that the litigant in person (Barton) who served papers on the the solicitors firm (Wright Hassall) one day after the limitation period laid down in the civil procedure rules would not be entitled to proceed with his claim because to allow him to do so would be to apply to litigants in person a lower standard of compliance than expected of professional litigators. The commentary argues that the UKSC failed to take account of the reality that had Barton been a professional litigant, it is unlikely that the one day delay in service would ever have been challenged by Wright Hassall. The commentary draws upon the Court of Appeal decision in the case of Denton v TH White  EWCA Civ 906. in support of its argument that it is in fact professional litigants (and not litigants in person) who have come to expect an allowance of up to 28 days when errors are made which result in departures from the civil procedure rules.
Legal Educators and Secret Barristers. A Review of The Secret Barrister, Stories of the Law and How It's Broken, Macmillan, 2018. 376 pp. £11.55 (HB). ISBN: 978-1-5098-4110-3.
This review explores how improvements in the university stage of legal education - especially in the teaching of legal ethics - would better equip lawyers to address the various problems they encounter in the UK criminal justice system.