Earlier in this academic year we invited expressions of interest from colleagues working in all subscribing institutions to work with us to address the issues highlighted in the following strands: strengthening the ways in which legal ethics, values and professionalism are taught, legal writing, research and reasoning skills and planning for personal and professional development. We are pleased to announce the details of the successful projects.
Embedding personal development plans - a pilot study
Project lead: Richard Whitecross, Edinburgh Napier University (R.Whitecross@napier.ac.uk)
The Legal Education and Training Report (June 2013) identified three broad areas of concern. Those areas apply to the Scottish legal education context. In particular there is a need to embed Personal Development Plans (PDPs) from Year 1. The LETR notes that general skills are embedded across LLB subjects. However, there is no consistent approach to ensure that students develop and maintain a PDP that captures the skills embedded in the LLB core courses. This weakness impacts on law students from less privileged backgrounds. To ensure an explicit focus on PDPs from the start of their university career this project seeks to develop a model for the development of student PDPs incrementally from Year 1 – Year 4. There are five strands to the project:
1: Review of skills and values embedded in the LLB programme At present transferable skills are implicitly embedded in the core law courses. Each core course will be reviewed. The review will identify the general and specific skills in each course. It will seek to identify and make explicit how skills are incrementally developed from Year 1 to Year 4.
2: Identifying personal development needs A central aspect of the project will focus on working with law students to identify their PDP needs. The project will focus on Year 1 and Year 3. Based on lessons learned it will be implemented across Years 1 – 4.
- Year 1: This will introduce Personal Development Tutors allocated to each student.
- Year 3: Students in this cohort will be applying for training contracts in 2014. The project will focus on engaging with Year 3 students to identify their skills and how to demonstrate their skills in a clear and appropriate way in their cvs.
3: Implementing personal development tutors The project will pilot the allocation of Personal Development Tutors (PDT). The pilot will focus on Year 1. Each student will be invited to complete a Personal Development Plan Form. The Form will ask each student to consider a range of skills. The student will rate themselves for each skill. The project will examine both how students and PDTs work together and barriers that prevent students from engaging with personal development.
4: Creating development opportunities The fourth strand of the project will focus on identifying opportunities for law students to develop a range of skills, notably working with others, communication skills and professional standards and values (e.g. confidentiality).
5: Evaluation and recommendations In April/May 2014, the project will be evaluated. The project evaluation will combine a range of evaluation methods to ensure that lessons are identified. An interim report will be presented to the HEA Conference in May 2014. A final report will be submitted in late June 2014 and an workshop with invited legal academics and practitioners will be held at Edinburgh Napier to discuss the findings and recommendations. This project will deliver the following objectives:
- pilot and evaluate the introduction of PDP in Year 1;
- Identify skills and skills gap of Year 3 and to develop and deliver workshops to address skills gaps;
- Review LLB Programme modules to plan and incrementally develop skills across Years 1 – 4;
- Learn and apply lessons from the pilot and to share learning across the university and with other law schools;
- Identify further areas of work to embed PDP approach.
The Community Legal Companion (CLC): teaching legal ethics, values and professionalism through collaborative training
Project lead: Jane Krishnadas, Keele University (email@example.com)
The Community Legal Companion (CLC) is an innovation in legal education. The CLC role was inspired by Keele students' presentations on the significant withdrawal of legal aid, and reflections upon law students’ role in addressing unmet community legal needs. In response, the guidelines for the CLC have been designed by academics, solicitors, the judiciary and charitable organisations as a development from the McKenzie Friend Principle to collaboratively train law students to assist litigants in person and access to legal services, under the Community Legal Outreach Collaboration, Keele (CLOCK).
CLCs are law students, having undergone intensive training from the Law School, judiciary, legal profession and third sector charitable organisations, to provide practical assistance to unrepresented litigants in the local courts and to assist access to legal aid, charitable and affordable mediation and legal services. The training covers the ethos and standards expected from CLCs in basic professional skills, ethics and competencies. The CLCs are based in the local courts, assisting referrals to legal aid, mediation and legal services, or directly assisting litigants in person. CLCs also assist access to law firms' and barristers’ chambers’ legal aid or affordable legal services. The CLCs develop social awareness, bridging community legal needs, professional practice and access to justice.
The CLC training and role forms the foundation of the pioneering Keele University 'Community Legal Companion' Employability Achievement Award. The Award requires students to reflect upon the development of their professional, commercial and social skills in their role as intermediaries, referring to and assisting legally-aided and affordable legal services within law firms and the third sector partners, to assist a holistic response to a range of complex needs.
The next phase of the project aims to enhance student reflection of their core and co-curricular activities, and develop deeper engagement between their co-curricular work as CLCs and their academic understanding of these issues within modules such as ‘Law in Action’ and ‘Law and Ethics’. The support of the HEA will enable the production of an audio-visual documentary to both facilitate and record law students’ reflections on the relationship between undergraduate studies and the co-curricular CLC to share with wider academic, community and legal professional audiences. The documentary film project will trace the ways in which legal ethics, values and professionalism are taught (and learnt); thus building a model for curriculum based legal ethics and community legal education to inform the learning experience within the CLC role.
The CLC initiative has generated widespread media attention and garnered interest from professional associations, courts and other law schools. The HEA strategic development project provides external support and endorsement to assist in the roll-out of the Legal Companion role to other HE institutions through the development of web-based resources (written, audio and video content). The project also assists with the development (and evaluation) of a system to monitor and track the learning progress of participating students, through a reflective portfolio and video project/documentary in which students and (appropriately anonymised) litigants provide feedback on what they have learned and gained from the initiative.
Developing an evidence-based platform for stimulating and capturing engagement in co- and extra-curricular activities relevant to the discipline within a personal and professional development (PPD) framework
Project lead: Gerard Kelly, University of Liverpool (Gerard.Kelly@liverpool.ac.uk)
This project aims to provide an evidence-based platform, tailored to the needs and aspirations of Law students and informed by the needs of potential employers, for stimulating and capturing engagement in co-and extra-curricular activities relevant to the discipline within a personal and professional development (PPD) framework.
Key questions to be addressed are:
• What are the PPD aspirations and expectations of Law students, whether they intend to pursue a career in the legal profession or otherwise, regarding curricular, co-curricular and extra-curricular activities?
• What are the expectations of employers in and external to the legal profession regarding HEI offered PPD activities and associated skills developments, given the current economic climate?
• How can the appropriate information best be described and presented within a personal Higher Education Achievement Report(HEAR)?
This project seeks to address the evidence gap in understanding the aspirations and expectations of Law students in relation to PPD compared to the expectations of employers, to ensure that an interactive resource being developed of content incorporating PPD materials and a subject-specific focus, is developed in the most effective way for students of Liverpool Law School. This work will also assist other Law Schools seeking to develop PPD, with the overall approach being transferable across the HEI sector.
Land law for the next generation: helping students develop research skills and the ability to write in different formats for a variety of audiences using ePortfolios and reflection
Project lead: Emma Flint, Birmingham City University (firstname.lastname@example.org)
This project will focus on the re-design of assessment methods and teaching and learning practice in a core LLB Module, Land Law. The re-design has involved a shift away from the traditional end of year exam to a portfolio approach where students will evidence their learning journey through the module. The aim is to assess the “process” of learning rather than simply the “product”. As part of this approach to learning the project aims to ensure that skills of legal research and writing are embedded into teaching practice. Of particular importance is the skill of legal writing in different formats and for different audiences. For example, students in 2013/14 are being asked to present their advice on an assessed problem based question as a memorandum to a training supervisor, supported by an annotated bibliography that will evidence their research. The aim is to embed research and writing skills in the curriculum and reinforce their importance as part of the learning process.
The project also requires student to reflect on their learning journey in Land Law and evidence this reflection as part of their assessed portfolio. There is a growing recognition of the importance of reflection as a lifelong skill and also, importantly, that students need help in order to reflect effectively. We want to develop our students as reflective practitioners but often assume that they will learn to do this instinctively and this skill is rarely assessed outside of pure skills based modules. In 2013/14 students as being asked to actively reflect on their learning experience in Land Law, evidence this reflection and gain credit for it through assessment.
Finally, the project will build on the success of the Law School at Birmingham City University in developing the use of ePortfolios as a means of teaching and assessing. The evidence compiled by students will be presented in an ePortfolio and submitted electronically using the University’s virtual learning environment. The re-designed module is being rolled out to students in 2013/14 and will be evaluated on an on-going basis. Crucial to this process will be the engagement of students as key stakeholders in the project. The University has a strong reputation for partnership working with students and we will draw on this experience to inform our evaluation.
The project will allow students to be involved ad co-collaborators and co-investigators in academic development activity in ways that scaffold and extend their studies. Students will be involved in all levels of the project, from a student representative in the advisory group for the project to collaboration on the on-going curriculum re-design, to the evaluation of the value and impact of the project outcomes. Early feedback on the re-designed assessment will be obtained followed by the setting up of focus groups to meet regularly and check on progress and student response. An advisory group for the project will be established involving practitioners and academics from other universities. In addition to providing initial support to the project, the advisory group will allow for wider dissemination of the project outputs and will ensure that key stakeholders in the provision of legal education (higher education institutions and employers) are actively involved in curriculum design to develop the kind of undergraduate law students that the LETR envisages are required for the future.
Updates on each of the projects will be available via this blog and project leaders will be presenting at the HEA Social Science conference in May. If you have any questions about the projects please either contact the project leads or use the ‘leave a reply’ facility below.