The vulnerable witnesses project - Angela Laycock


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Presentation at the HEA-funded workshop 'Embedding legal research skills into the LLB curriculum'.

LETR identified that “legal research skills are not sufficiently acquired by the end of the academic stage” and recommends the introduction of distinct assessment in legal research to the LLB. This workshop explored the ways in which legal research skills can be developed and assessed within a qualifying law degree.

This presentation is part of a related blog post that provides an overview of the event:

For further details of the HEA's work on teaching research methods in the Social Sciences, please see:

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The vulnerable witnesses project - Angela Laycock

  1. 1. The Vulnerable Witness Project - Local Pro Bono: A Grounded Theory Approach to Inspire Undergraduate Legal Research in the Field of Human Rights Angela Laycock VWP Meeting 2014 VWP Delegates BCUR2013
  2. 2. Vulnerable Witness Project: Pro Bono Local Project • Commissioned by Greenwich Association for Disabled People’s Centre for Independent Living (GAD) supported by Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) • Analysis of closed case through police reports to examine the effectiveness of current procedures and pre-trial processes that facilitate the giving of evidence by court in witnesses to disability hate crimes 07/04/2014 HEA Workshop 7.4.14 2
  3. 3. VWP Project Management • Team composition – 8 (max) Level 5 & 6 undergraduates appointed to team though CV, letter& interview – Project Administrator (postgraduate) – Project Leader(staff) • Organisation of Team Business – Weekly Project Meetings – Monthly meetings with stakeholders (term time) – Students take responsibility for one part of investigation & record finings on VWP Moodle page – 07/04/2014 HEA Workshop 7.4.14 3
  4. 4. VWP: Research-based learning for the undergraduate “There are four main ways of engaging undergraduates with research and inquiry: — research-led: learning about current research in the discipline; — research-oriented: developing research skills and techniques; — research-based: undertaking research and inquiry; — research-tutored: engaging in research discussions.” Healey & Jenkins Developing Undergraduate Research and Enquiry (2009 HEA) 07/04/2014 HEA Workshop 7.4.14 4
  5. 5. Teaching Undergraduates Human Rights Law Through Research: The Inspiration! MOTIVE Prepare effective authoritative Human Rights Lawyers  conviction grounded theory approach most effective method of understanding and operating Human Rights Law (HRL) MEANS Southern African Women’s Lawyers’ (SAWL) Teaching model OPPORTUNITY • Emerging Jurisprudence: Biosecurity; Human Rights & Disability • Human Rights Act 1998Demand for Human Rights Law Practitioners  HRL in undergraduate curriculum 07/04/2014 HEA Workshop 7.4.14 5
  6. 6. MOTIVE: FINDING A METHODOLOGY TO DEVELOP UNDERGRADUATE EXPERTISE IN HUMAN RIGHTS GROUNDED THEORY • de jure equality, de facto discrimination • Set up to “bridge the gap between law and reality”* • Led to a recognition of a need “to understand the gap before (they) could bridge it” • “…AN APPROACH TO LAW BASED ON THE REALITY OF HUMAN LIFE”** * Julie Stewart Interview 23.3.96 ** Hellum & Stewart (1998), Pursuing Grounded Theory in Law page 25 07/04/2014 HEA Workshop 7.4.14 6
  7. 7. MEANS: SAWL POSTGRADUATE COURSE • Origins - Women’s Inheritance Question: Deep Legal Pluralism • Course - Advice to Domestic Servants; monitoring the success of the advice  development of own project • Applicable in the UK? 07/04/2014 BCUR 2013 7
  8. 8. Grounded Theory appropriate vehicle for development of expertise Human Rights Law “The women’s law scholar is likely to be engaged in efforts to investigate empirically and from this to generate critiques and arguments as to how judges, lawmakers and administrators could and, perhaps, should interpret or amend the law.” ** Hellum & Stewart (1998), Pursuing Grounded Theory in Law page 26 07/04/2014 BCUR 2013 8
  9. 9. Opportunity  Undergraduate Research 1. 2003-8: International Comparative Research Development of mechanism for integrating research project into UK Undergraduate Curriculum  2. 2008-10: Local Community Research part of undergraduate curriculum but filling gap in community knowledge (applied clinical legal education)  3. 2012-14 Pro bono: Commissioned undergraduate research project independent from degree programme  07/04/2014 HEA Workshop 7.4.14 9
  10. 10. VWP: Commissioned Pro Bono Project Motive Means Outcomes 1. Give legitimacy to undergraduate research projects as bona fide contributions to knowledge. 2. Ensure the survival of undergraduate research projects in law. 3. Continue community partnerships. Research 1. Team Meetings across years 2. Stakeholder meetings 3. Presentation & Report 4. Fieldwork • Value of Undergraduate research • Unique reality of student learning experience raised academic performance • Employability • Improving the student’s experience. 07/04/2014 HEA Workshop 7.4.14 10
  11. 11. Benefits of Learning through Community Research Projects - Curricular • Deep Learning • Enhanced Academic Performance • Transferable Skills & Student Development • Teamwork 07/04/2014 HEA Workshop 7.4.14 11
  12. 12. Serving Two Masters! Research-based Learning Practicalities Learning & Teaching • Validation • Assessment Regime • Meet Resource Requirements Research • Research and Ethics • Research Outcomes/Partner expectations 07/04/2014 HEA Workshop 7.4.14 12
  13. 13. VWP Student Evaluation • “The VWP enables you to widen the breadth of your understanding of law. The VWP opens your eyes to how the law can actually affect people, both in a negative and positive way, which I feel is a vital skill needed for every future lawyer.” Stuart Barnes 2013-14 (Level 6) • “ The promise of working on real cases had been one of the main factors that drew me to the project, and it did not disappoint. Some of the happenings in the cases alone were very interesting, and after the tedious procedure of redacting names was complete, we were able to include these and our findings in our final presentation which we presented at the University of Plymouth to an audience of our peers at the end of the academic year. Without a doubt, I found the first year of the project very rewarding.” Jessica Gray, 2012-14 (Level 5 &6) 07/04/2014 HEA Workshop 7.4.14 13
  14. 14. Legal Education and Training Review 2013 Recommendation 11 “There should be a distinct assessment of legal research, writing and critical thinking skills at level 5 or above in the Qualifying Law Degree … Educational providers should retain discretion in setting the context and parameters of the task, provided that it is sufficiently substantial to give students a reasonable but challenging opportunity to demonstrate their competence.” 07/04/2014 HEA Workshop 7.4.14 14
  15. 15. Legal Education and Training Review 2013 Recommendation 7 “The learning outcomes at initial stages of LSET should include reference (as appropriate to the individual practitioner’s role) to an understanding of the relationship between morality and law, the values of underpinning the legal system, and the role of lawyers in relation to those values.” 07/04/2014 HEA Workshop 7.4.14 15
  16. 16. The Vulnerable Witness Project - Local Pro Bono: A Grounded Theory Approach to Inspire Undergraduate Legal Research in the Field of Human Rights THANK YOU Angela Laycock References Healey, M. & Jenkins, A., (2009) Developing Undergraduate Research and Enquiry, The Higher Education Academy Hellum, A. & Stewart, J. (editors) (1998) Pursuing Grounded Theory in Law: South-North Experiences in Developing Women’s Law, Harare: Mond Books Kerrigan, K. & Murray, V., (editors) (2011) A Student Guide to Clinical Legal Education and Pro Bono, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan LAYCOCK, Angela. Grounding research projects in the undergraduate curriculum: assessment strategies. Compass: Journal of Learning and Teaching, [S.l.], v. 4, n. 8, dec. 2013. ISSN 2044-0081. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 18 Mar. 2014 Macduff,A.(2005) ‘Deep Learning, Critical thinking and Teaching for law Reform’ Legal Education Review Vol.15, no.1 &2, 2005pp125-35 SRA, BSB,IPS Legal Education and Training Review: Setting Standards: The Future of Legal Services Education and Training Regulation in England and Wales June 2013 07/04/2014 HEA Workshop 7.4.14 16