Tribute to the University of Edinburgh's first Director of Professional Legal Studies, who made an immense contribution to legal education in the university and more widely

The tragically early death of Elaine Tyre has caused immense sadness amongst her many friends, colleagues and former students in the legal community in Scotland and beyond. The first thoughts of everyone are with her family to whom she meant so much and of whom she was so proud.

Lady Tyre was appointed as the University of Edinburgh’s first Director of Professional Legal Studies in May 2010. A double graduate of the university, initially in history and politics and then in law, she went on to qualify as a solicitor with Shepherd and Wedderburn. Elaine first joined the staff of the then Law Faculty in 1980 as a part-time tutor. She taught at both LLB and Diploma in Legal Practice level for many years, before being appointed as deputy director of the Legal Practice Unit in 2002. Elaine’s promotion to the post which she held at the time of her death rightly rewarded the immense contribution which she had made to legal education at the university and more widely.

Elaine organised and taught on several Diploma courses. She acted in a formal capacity as director of studies for many students and in an informal capacity for countless others. She coached the student team each year in the Scottish Client Counselling Competition. When Edinburgh won it on two occasions she accompanied the team to the World Finals in Australia and Hawaii. She co-ordinated the development of the Professional Competence Course at Edinburgh and directed the delivery of both its core and elective modules. She conceived the idea of the Law School offering a part-time Diploma over two years with evening classes, which began to run in 2009. She also sat on numerous Law Society of Scotland committees and was a key figure in the ongoing reform of legal education in Scotland.

Always full of new ideas, one of Elaine’s greatest achievements was the establishment of the university’s Free Legal Advice Centre in 2007. It enables Diploma students to serve the wider community by putting their legal knowledge into practice with real life clients and problems. Elaine invested innumerable hours working on this project and it put into practice her ethos of seeking to help others.

It might be wondered in amongst all this work whether Elaine had time to socialise. Yet she was arguably the most sociable individual that one would ever encounter. She invariably attended Diploma parties, receptions and balls. She took a special interest in the annual group of Eurolawyers, inviting them to a barbecue at her home in East Lothian. In 2009 she had another inspirational idea: to start a Law School Choir. This would enable more social interaction between staff and students. Its first ever concert in March 2010 raised several hundred pounds in donations for the Free Legal Advice Centre.

Perhaps Elaine’s defining characteristic was her capacity to love. She loved her family, her friends, her colleagues and her students. And they in turn loved her. She drew great support from her husband Colin, who became a judge in May last year, and their children Kirsty, Catriona and Ewan. The great affection of her colleagues and students can be seen from the numerous poignant tributes on the Edinburgh Law School website. Her death has left a large gap in many people’s lives. Yet she has a tangible and enduring legacy in the Edinburgh Law School’s part-time Diploma, Free Legal Advice Centre and choir, to name only a few. And there are countless happy memories. She was a remarkable individual and it was a privilege to work with her so closely and to be her friend.

Society role

Elaine Tyre, who died on 12 December 2010, had been a member of the Law Society of Scotland’s Education and Training Committee since September 2004.

Committee convener Christine McLintock said: “Elaine will be greatly missed by all who knew her. She was a dedicated member of the committee with a genuine interest in the future of education and training. She willingly gave her time and her ideas, not only on the main committee but also as a member of various working parties. Her professionalism, commitment and common sense were greatly valued, but it was the manner in which she combined these qualities with her vitality and sense of fun that made her such a pleasure to work with. My thoughts are with her family in their loss.”

The Author
Dr Andrew Steven, Senior Lecturer  
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