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23 May, 2011

School students and lawyers speak up for public legal education

On Friday, school students told how their attitudes to the law had changed since legal professionals began contributing to their lessons.

Students and lawyers had gathered to celebrate the success of the Lawyers in Schools programme, in which practising and trainee lawyers work with young people in the classroom to promote awareness and understanding of the law.

Forty students from eight schools were joined at international Law firm Slaughter and May by representatives from twenty participating legal practices.

As well as making the law more accessible the programme helps develop critical thinking skills and a mature attitude towards the law. A student from Haverstock School in Camden spoke of a change in attitude since starting the programame:

‘All my life I have disagreed with most of the law mainly because I was told what to do all the time…but now that I know more about the law I am finding myself always thinking about it and asking why certain things are happening’.

Lucy Scott-Moncrieff, Deputy Vice President of the Law Society of England and Wales, had previously observed a Lawyers in Schools session at Haverstock School. ‘It was really interesting,’ she said, ‘to see those young people grappling with social issues that they might not have previously realised had a legal content.’

Mark Bennett, a Partner at Slaughter and May, spoke of his firm’s commitment to public legal information and of the many benefits for participating law firms. ‘We think it is important that young people have the opportunity,’ he explained, ‘to understand the role that the law plays in our everyday life and know their rights and responsibilities’.

Currently the Lawyers in Schools programme involves more than 400 volunteers from 25 law firms, in-house legal teams and Chambers, including Slaughter and May, Linklaters, Freshfields, Olswang, J.P. Morgan and Santander. So far it reaches more than 850 young people in 22 schools from London, Bolton, Manchester and the West Midlands.


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