The idea behind the project is to get youngsters more involved in the British judicial and democratic system as well as hopefully preparing them to approach a career at the Bar, which has over the years been criticised for its lack of diversity, particularly for people from socially disadvantaged backgrounds. As concerns grow within the legal education system that as a result of the rise in undergraduate course fees and the spiralling costs of post-graduate qualifications the Bar is likely to become less diverse rather than more, projects such as these which seeks to engage young people early on in their education and demystify both the legal profession and system are all the more necessary.
Big Voice London
Big Voice London is led by Jennifer Blair, one of the students on the City Law School BPTC, and volunteers from City Law School are coordinating it. The students explore legal access and the political processes at play in a democratic society.
The participating schools include City and Islington College, Hackney Community College, Quintin Kynaston School in St John’s Wood and St Dominic’s Sixth Form College. About 35 students are presently involved in attending seminars and talks on such diverse subjects as legal careers, the court structures, hate crime in communities, legal architecture, religious tribunals, equality in the law and the role of activism in lawmaking. In September they will compare legal access in the UK with legal access in post-apartheid South Africa.
Students have so far heard from a variety of speakers, including the Guardian legal correspondent Afua Hirsch, Supreme Court justice Lord Kerr, Bafta-Winning documentary maker Rex Bloomstein, and the Archbishop of Canterbury. There has also been a mock trial, with BPTC students acting as counsel and the school students as jurors who hear the evidence and reach a verdict. The BPTC students were also given additional advocacy feedback on their witness handling.
To find out more about the project (they are always looking for work experience opportunities for the young people involved) visit www.bigvoicelondon.wordpress.com.
Pro bono director, City Law School