Central government lawyers and the prosecution service have joined forces for schools outreach project, Your Future in Law

Your Future in Law is a project that has been jointly developed by staff in the Government Legal Service for Scotland (GLSS) and the Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service – the two largest central government legal organisations in Scotland. The project originated when staff in the GLSS started to look at what the organisation could do to promote diversity and provide opportunities for aspiring lawyers in Scotland.

The central objective of the project is to widen access to the legal profession for pupils from state schools who have been found to be under-represented in the legal profession in Scotland (Minority and Social Diversity in Legal Education in Scotland, Scottish Executive Social Research, 2003). Your Future in Law aims to stimulate pupils’ interest in a career in law, by providing an opportunity to experience how law is used in government.

Your Future in Law ran for the first time as a pilot in 2013. The pilot met with a very positive reaction from pupils, and the project was further developed to run successfully for a second time in the 2014 October school break. Pupils were selected by their schools, who were asked to consider pupils who may not have other opportunities of gaining legal work experience. In total, 23 pupils from state schools across east-central Scotland spent three days learning about how law is used by government to achieve policy aims and solve social problems.

As well as interactive workshops covering the basics of the legal system, human rights and the process of turning a policy into a law, pupils gained hands-on experience by participating in a mock parliamentary debate in the Scottish Parliament, and by running a mock trial at the High Court. The programme closed with the pupils being addressed by the Solicitor General for Scotland, Lesley Thomson QC, and the Advocate General for Scotland, Lord Wallace of Tankerness QC, who reflected on their legal careers.

The team organising the project have found it a rewarding experience. Carolyn Magill, project leader, and a solicitor in the Office of the Advocate General, said: “It has been fantastic to work with a talented team of people to create an innovative opportunity for young people who have limited experience of law, to encourage them to think about a legal career”.

Clare McKinlay, solicitor in the Scottish Government Legal Directorate, said: “I first became involved in Your Future in Law as a trainee solicitor, and have seen my project working skills develop greatly from this experience.”

Pupils taking part commented very positively on their experience. One said: “This course has made me realise I want a career in public law. Before, I knew I was interested in law and politics, and I have found that this is almost a combination of these.” Another said that the project would be useful to any aspiring lawyer: “After the course I have a realistic idea of what it means to study and work in law – it was a great experience and I would recommend it to anyone thinking of studying law.”

With feedback such as this, it is clear that Your Future in Law has been successful in its objectives this year. The organising team will now take a well-earned break before looking at what 2015 may hold for the project.

Contributed by the Your Future in Law committee

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