Street law is an extra-curricular activity that helps to educate students and others on the law through the use of mock trails, and presentations for schools and the community. Frequently the issues worked on in Street Law relate to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in their very nature.
What was the programme or module?
Street Law is an extra-curricular activity open to all law students, it isn’t a module. Street Law runs mock trials and presentations for schools, college and community groups; around 30 undergraduates take part each year.
Overview: Street Law is based on two ideas:
Teaching something to someone else is a good way to learn it yourself.
Educating members of the public (in schools, colleges and community groups) about legal issues is a good way to help people to avoid problems and to be aware of how the law can help them.
The Law itself can relate to many of the issues that the UN’s SDGs discuss, meaning that the work done in Street Law often involves ideas surrounding sustainability.
Context: In 2001/02, DMU ran a Student Learning Award competition, with a £10,000 first prize for the best student-led initiative to promote teaching and learning. The nascent DMU Street Law group submitted an entry and won first prize. Street Law was then new to the UK; the original Street Law project, the DC Street Law Clinic at Georgetown University’s law school in Washington DC, had been running for 30 years. With this prize, some of the original DMU Street Law students and their supervisor visited the DC Street Law Clinic at Georgetown University, to observe their work. This inspired the development of Street Law at DMU.
Description: The impetus for developing a new mock trial or presentations can arise in two ways. Sometimes a group invites us to do a session for them. Sometimes we create a session during our workshops (we meet every week in term time) and find a group who’d be interested in that session. Street Law sessions can be about the practical impact of any area of law, relating to issues such as consumer rights, criminal law, housing and homelessness, human rights, police powers, refugees and climate change.
By constructing learning experiences for schools, colleges and community groups, students think through the structure and significance of legal principles. By working together to design and deliver sessions, students learn about team-work and develop research and communication skills. Street Law sessions often (although not always) relate to current issues or social problems, such as people getting into legal trouble for things posted on social media or people undertaking dangerous journeys across the Mediterranean Sea, hoping to obtain refuge from persecution. When Street Law sessions involve a moral or political dimension (as current legal issues often do), students think about how to deliver sessions in an ethical way (for example, how to present a controversial issue in a balanced way).
Evaluation: Participants in Street Law sessions, both law students who delivered them and members of the public who attended them, gave us positive feedback, saying that these were effective and enjoyable learning experiences.
Why are the SDGs important to this subject?
Education which promotes access to justice is important because, if people aren’t aware of how the law is available to protect them, they will be vulnerable to exploitation. Lifelong learning is important because it helps people to live meaningful lives, to understand complex problems and to be heard.
The most important SDGs in Street Law are:
SDG16 – members of the public are informed about how the law affects them, Street Law promotes access to justice.
SDG4 – members of the public are educated about legal issues, Street Law contributes to lifelong learning for all.
What would you recommend to colleagues considering adopting a similar approach?
Public education sessions with groups in schools, colleges and community groups tend to work well when they are based on:
Good information about what the group already know and what they’re interested in
A significant period of preparation, research and rehearsal for the students delivering the session
Academic support and supervision throughout, to ensure that the content of the session is accurate and that it’s appropriate for the intended audience
Genuine interest and passion for the chosen subject among the students doing the session
Interactive sessions which connect with the knowledge, interests or experiences of participants
Quality rather than quantity; Street Law runs a small number sessions per term, so that they can be researched, prepared and rehearsed properly.
Contact: Alwyn Jones, supervisor for Street Law, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, tel: 0116 207 8045
This post is one of a series of case studies describing teaching and learning activities linked to the SDGs at DMU.
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