Association of Law Teachers’ Annual Conference 2017: Foundations and Futures
Karen Buckley (Solicitor & Senior Lecturer in Law)
When my colleague, Martin Salisbury, suggested back in December that we present a paper at the ALT conference in April this year on our ‘Wills Week’ project, I readily acquiesced. For one, it seemed a long time ahead and, two; he was willing to write the abstract. Win Win! He promptly got his own back on me though by going away on holiday just before the Conference and leaving me with the bulk of the presentation to prepare! He jetted down to Portsmouth on the morning of the Conference (10 April) and met us as we were walking in to register. We (Fiona Bledge, Janet Furness, Michael Doherty and I) had driven the five hours from Preston to Portsmouth in our hired 7 seater, affectionately known as the Fun Bus, the day before. We arrived at 6 pm just in time for a walking tour of the historical sites of Portsmouth, a fish and chip supper and the chance to meet new friends. For Michael, it was an annual reunion as he has been attending the ALT Conference from the year dot, or so it seems.
On Day One, the programme was a series of pick ‘n’ mix sessions, a keynote speech from Michael Mansfield QC, and we finished with supporting Michael in his paper on ‘Visual Learning’, which was much applauded. So many nuggets to take away from the day: on wellbeing, use of technology, curriculum changes, phenomenographic research (ask Michael!) to name but a few. The sun was shining so I took advantage and met a pal in Portsmouth for a drink on the waterfront before we enjoyed our evening meal on HMS Warrior. What a treat that was – a Victorian, iron-hulled, armoured battleship. We discovered pistols, swords, rifles and gun canons.
Day Two was in the same format. Martin and I tweaked our presentation and were sandwiched between a paper on ‘Reflection’ and ‘African Prisons Project’, all on the theme of experiential learning. We shared our ideas on Wills Week to a good reception and encouraged colleagues from other institutions to give it a go. Although there were plenty of new ideas shared across the conference floor, simply hearing from others who were dealing with the same issues as us and the same challenges (external and internal) was a great fillip and gave validation to what we are all trying to achieve.
With five in the Fun Bus on the way home, DJ Fiona loaded some 80s tracks and took requests which ranged from ‘Stone Roses’ to ‘Simon and Garfunkel’. Sadly, we didn’t have time for some ‘Queen’ – next trip.
“Karen and Martin are being far too modest about their paper. They outlined some of the challenges of pro-bono work in terms of the range of issues that clients present, the issues of combining a full teaching workload with pro-bono supervision, and the fact that student volunteers rarely got to ‘close the loop’ in their dealings with clients. They presented all of these issues in the context of their deep commitment to pro-bono work both in terms of the positive experiential learning for students and as an essential service for clients.
The Wills Week project is, therefore, a well-designed response to these challenges. It provides a more structured set of tasks for students that nevertheless reflects the work that lawyers do in practice. It gives students an opportunity to apply their interviewing skills. They have the satisfaction of seeing a task through from start to finish. Karen and Martin took a reflective approach to the design of Wills Week and its potential future development. They discussed the impact of the project on those students taking part.”