Background to the Law Society of Scotland's initiative with Addleshaw Goddard and the UK Chamber of Shipping

Harvard, MIT, Oxford and countless other universities globally have embraced the concept of the massive open online course (MOOC). These courses allow learners globally to access some of the educational excellence that those institutions offer, either free or for a low price. This has been a phenomenon in recent years in terms of global education.

Both Addleshaw Goddard and the Law Society of Scotland had been looking at such courses for various reasons, Addleshaw to promote themselves internationally and the Society to show the Scottish jurisdiction’s legal excellence while also testing a new way of offering learning (for lawyers and non-lawyers). Now they have collaborated with the UK Chamber of Shipping in developing a MOOC in maritime law, which has been running since October and will be repeated a few times in 2018. 

Adrian Smith, head of corporate relations at Addleshaw Goddard, explained: “A MOOC allows us to communicate with our international clients and also promote our capability and expertise to a new audience. We believe we are one of the first law firms in the world to implement this marketing opportunity and are delighted with the levels of engagement with clients and others with an interest in maritime law.”

The MOOC focuses on shipping transactions – the sale and purchase of ships, registration of ships and flags of convenience, and ship finance. Learners log on to the site and work their way through videos, article and discussions. They are asked to comment and contribute throughout the process.

“The response has been phenomenal,” said Rob Marrs, head of education at the Society. More than 1,500 people noted interest in the MOOC, and by the second day nearly 700 had started the course. The largest number came from the UK, but many from shipping industry hotspots across the globe like Piraeus, Singapore and Hong Kong, all learning and engaging with Scottish lawyers and the Society. 

He noted: “The nature of the course means we can run it numerous times over the year. We hope that this MOOC will show off the excellence of the legal system here and the profession to the wider world. It is humbling to open the site up and see hundreds of people globally commenting on articles or videos you’ve had a hand in producing.”

Ed Watt, partner and head of the shipping group at Addleshaw Goddard, added: “Because shipping law is not widely taught at undergraduate level here – or globally – we saw the opportunity for an introductory approach aimed at solicitors and the public. The response has been very enthusiastic, which suggests the idea was a good one. Our transactional expertise is an international practice so it really is capable of a global audience.”

The course will next be run in February. There are already plans to build an Introduction to Scots Law MOOC to help bolster the Society’s public legal education strategy, and help the public understand the law.

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