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BPP’s nationwide Streetlaw project: highlights from 2018/19

Rachael Kirkup, Streetlaw Supervising Solicitor, reflects on the highlights of the Streetlaw project for the 2018/19 academic year. If you are a BPP student, please visit the VLE for more information about how to take part in this volunteering project. If you are an external venue interested in booking a Streetlaw workshop, please visit our website for more information about topics and the contact details of the Streetlaw Coordinator local to your site: http://probono.bppuniversity.ac.uk/streetlaw/

 

What is the Streetlaw programme?

 

Streetlaw is a free public legal education (PLE) project run by BPP University Law School’s Pro Bono Centre across 7 UK sites, with the support of law student volunteers. Streetlaw improves access to justice through the delivery of fun and interactive legal workshops to community groups (e.g. schoolchildren; ex-offenders; people affected by homelessness) on a variety of legal issues (e.g. employment; housing; family). The project’s database extends to over 70 workshops, each typically lasting 1 – 2 hrs.

 

What are the Streetlaw project’s key achievements in 2018/19?

1) Over 300 hours of legal education were voluntarily delivered by over 230 BPP law students to approximately 3000 members of the public.                                      

2) The Law Ambassador Programme won the Pro Bono Award at the Yorkshire Legal Awards 2018 and is shortlisted in the Leadership of the Year category at the Social Mobility Awards 2019 (winner TBA) in recognition of its commitment to improving young people’s legal knowledge, skills and career aspirations. The project partners Sixth Form state school students with BPP Leeds and local law firms over a two-year period, and provides them with legal experiences (e.g. mock trial; court visit; mentoring).

3) The Streetlaw project’s strategic focus this year on helping disadvantaged young people to: (i) be active citizens in their community (e.g. our Campaigning workshops); and (ii) make safe, legal choices about sex, relationships and online activity (e.g. our Sexting and Revenge Porn workshops), has seen it named as a finalist in the Pro Bono category of the Law Society Excellence Awards 2019 (winner TBA)

4) BPP staff received “Gold” UK Parliament Teacher Ambassador status – an accreditation given by the UK Parliament Education and Engagement Service in recognition of the Streetlaw project’s ability to deliver quality education to young people about democracy and Parliament (See further:http://probono.bppuniversity.ac.uk/blog/parliamenteducation/)

5) BPP significantly broadened the impact of the project in its local communities by expanding the number and type of venues we work with nationally, including new relationships with the Manchester Employment Tribunal, HMP Winson Green (Birmingham) and StreetGames (London)

6) A BPP staff member’s article published in the International Journal of Public Legal Education helped to raise awareness of PLE’s value and BPP’s expertise in this regard: https://bit.ly/2zD7Glb

7) The project has received excellent feedback from BPP students this year with a number of students highlighting a series of benefits of participation, including personal satisfaction, skill development, and it being instrumental in securing jobs in the legal field. Ellie Broughton, a GDL student volunteer for the Streetlaw project, has recently secured a training contract with national firm, Addleshaw Goddards. She says of her time as a volunteer: “I’ve really enjoyed my role as a Student Director as it has allowed me to make friends at BPP and give back to the local community. It has not only been personally rewarding but vital to developing my confidence. Organising and presenting with other volunteers has developed my ability to speak in public, a vital skill for a future career in law”.

Reflections on a successful year from the Streetlaw Supervising Solicitor

In November 2018 the (then) Solicitor General launched his 10 Year Vision and Goals for Public Legal Education: a vision “for a country where legal capability is spread throughout our society – where everyone, and every group, is able to identify and act on legal situations when they arise. It is a country where no-one, no community, and no section of society is denied justice through ignorance of their legal rights and responsibilities, or of the actions which they can take to protect them”.*

With over 230 BPP student volunteers delivering over 300 hours of free public legal education (“PLE”) to community groups across the UK in 2018/19 (under the supervision of Pro Bono Centre staff specialising in areas such as family, employment and housing), BPP’s Streetlaw project is at the forefront of helping to meet the 10 Year Vision’s aims. These aims include providing accurate, accessible and useful information to people who need it, and prioritising reaching children, young adults and vulnerable groups across the UK.

Year on year, I remain delighted and impressed by the dedication of our law student volunteers, who devote hours of their time in and amongst their course, work and family commitments, to increase the legal capability of the most vulnerable, and to encourage those audience members to fully participate as citizens in society – whether that is a person affected by homelessness, mental health concerns, or other circumstances which have denied them access to relevant legal information before now. Their involvement in the Streetlaw project sees our students blossom into capable and confident presenters and facilitators, able to break down legal jargon for their audiences and exhibit genuine client empathy.

As we look to the future, the BPP team see the potential for launching community education packages co-delivered by students from a variety of disciplines within BPP (e.g. psychology, nursing), in line with the 10 Year Vision’s goal for PLE to be understood as beneficial and embedded in other sectors that do not traditionally deliver it. We will continue to work with colleagues across BPP to explore such opportunities, whilst preserving the quality and breadth of the free legal workshops that sit at the core of our Streetlaw project. I, for one, cannot wait to see what our student volunteers are capable of achieving with the project in the coming year, and beyond.

* https://www.lawworks.org.uk/about-us/news/public-legal-education-new-vision-statement

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