Scottish Murder Trial to be Televised: Updated

The Law Society of Scotland's Journal carries the news today that Channel 4 are going to commence filming a Scottish murder trial tomorrow as part of a documentary looking into how courts operate.  The link to the story is here:

In our annual 'So You Want to be a Lawyer' taster day we get the school pupils to debate on a few topics.  One topic they always enjoy is whether court cases should be televised which makes it all the more intersting to see this story appearing today. 

The Journal Online says "The programme is expected to be shown sometime next year, once all the cases featured are concluded."  I'll set the TIVO!


*UPDATE* The Journal reports today that consent has been withdrawn by the family of the victim so 'the makers will have to seek a suitable trial later in the year.'

I'll keep you posted…


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The History of Law Reporting: UPDATED

The ground-breaking Donoghue v. Stevenson case is brought to life in five great videos commissioned, as a free educational resource, by The Scottish Council of Law Reporting.  There are five videos in the series, as follows:

  • Donoghue v. Stevenson: The History of Law Reporting;
  • The Law of Judges: Precedent and the Criteria for the Reporting of Case;
  • Anatomy of the Law: The Authority, Authorship and Arrangement of Session Case;
  • In the Case Of: Using the Reports and
  • Books and Bytes: Accessing the Reports.

These videos are an excellent resource and serve as a great introduction to Session Cases and their history.  I plan to use them with school groups.  Our very own Professor John Cairns features in the first video and it's also pleasing to see Andrew Stewart QC, a long-time supporter of Pathways to the Professions, taking a starring role!

You can access the videos online at or on YouTube at:


(photo from )

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LEAPS Summer School: Learning Skills


For the third year running I was part of the Lothian Equal Access Programme for Schools (LEAPS) Summer School 'Learning Skills' marking team.  Summer School is "for LEAPS eligible students holding one or more UCAS offers. It costs nothing, lasts 7 weeks and [students] undertake three courses (including Learning Skills), taught and assessed at degree-level by staff from a range of universities. Summer School isn’t easy, however it is a valuable opportunity for [students] to impress admissions tutors and to get a true feel for university study. As well as giving [students] another opportunity to demonstrate academic potential, Summer School will offers the chance to develop skills and build self-confidence in a friendly, supportive environment." (

Students take two subjects alongside the mandatory weekly Learning Skills course.  The Learning Skills course, run by James Lamb and Alice Smith of LEAPS, just gets better every year.  The wealth of online resources within the Virtual Learning Environment ( gives students a headstart on their studies and starts to point them towards finding resources themselves.  Topics covered are:

  • Finding Academic Resources;
  • Critical Thinking and Argument;
  • Discussion and Presentation;
  • Academic Writing and
  • Presenting Evidence.

Students are assessed in the form of group presentation worth 50% and an essay worth 50%. This is a great combination of assessment methods as it allows students to play to their strengths.  It also prepares them for working in groups and presenting at university level.

The marking team assessed the group presentations last Wednesday and we then had 15 – 20 essays each to mark and feed back on this week.  The title of the essays was 'What impact could effective learning skills have upon your intended degree studies?' and the standard of submissions was high.  It was interesting to see the different ways students approached this question – some relating it directly to their future studies and some to university study more generally.  The overall feeling was certainly that the students think they have a headstart on their studies now from working in this safe and supported environment.

Congratulations to all students who gave up six weeks of their summer to prepare for university. It can't have been easy and we salute your enthusiasm!  

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Graduation Congratulations!

Just a quick blogpost to say a massive congratulations to all our graduands who are due to graduate this afternoon in a ceremony at the beautiful McEwan Hall. It's agorgeous day here already and there is a buzz around the Law School on this special day.  I'm really looking forward to congratulating the students in person after the ceremony and joining them for a little refreshment to toast their success.  Well done, all!!

You can watch the proceedings here live from 3.00 pm


 Image from Edinburgh First website.

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High Flyers


Part of me can't believe it is June already and nothing makes me feel it more than annual events creeping up in what feels like less than a year.  With Pathways Parents' Evenings two weeks ago and some of our other annual events coming up, I thought I'd take time to reflect on a session I ran yesterday for the High Flyers initiative.

High Flyers is a week-long residential programme attended by new s5 pupils from Wester Hailes Education Centre, Craigroyston Community High School, Castlebrae Community High School and Inveralmond Community High School which represent some of the schools with the lowest progression rates to higher education in the Lothians.  It is run by LEAPS, Lothian Equal Access Programme for Schools, and consists of experiences in Heriot Watt University, Edinburgh Napier University, Queen Margaret University and The University of Edinburgh.

This year, we welcomed 39 pupils into the Law School to take part in a law workshop.  Pupils started off being put into teams in which they would work for the 90 minute session.  We had a discussion about law and about what it means to them in their lives.  We then did a short quiz designed to find out how much they knew about what age you have to be to legally be allowed to do certain things in Scotland, e.g. hold a private pilot's licence.*

The pupils then got debating as the six teams battled it out for and against the following topics: 

  • This house believes assisted suicide should be legalised in the UK.
  • This house believes students should have to pay for their university education and
  • This house believes that celebrities should be able to have superinjunctions granted.

The pupils did very well and most managed to stick to the alloted time.  Given that they came in not knowing they would be public speaking, they were very impressive in their passion for the subject matters.  One group I overheard as I gave them the debate topics out shouted 'Yessss, I LOVE assisted suicide!'  Hmmm!

I hope they enjoyed the rest of their week.  They had a great selection of university experiences and the social side made me tired just looking at it! 

*NB, the answer is 17!

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Pathways Parents’ Evenings

width=275Tonight we have the first of two evenings this week designed for the parents of pupils on our Pathways to the Professions scheme.

These sessions were set up in order to give information and answer questions about applications, university life, funding and other areas of student life.  We have talks about finance and applying to university then hold break-out groups for each subject.  The break-out groups have current students in them and a Chair (myself for the law group) asks questions of the student in a less intimidating version of Newsnight!  We also normally have Admissions colleagues present as many people want to chat about entry requirements on a one-to-one basis.

After the break-out sessions, there is a chance to chat informally with the parents and pupils and they can chat to the current students too.  The evenings run from 6.45 until just before 9 pm (which parents have told us they find useful in terms of being able to attend after a working day).

I have just celebrated four years in the Law School and as this was one of the first activities I was involved with when I started, this will be my fifth year attending.  It is scary how much time has flown in but very interesting how similar the queries are year on year.  It helps the Student Recruitment team to plan as they know the areas people like to know more about.  Having current student is a great idea as well as they can give a better idea of what it is actually like to be a student here and are very honest in their accounts of life as a law student.  I am sure the parents are always delighted to hear our Student Law Society slogan of 'Work Hard, Play Harder!'


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Law Society of Scotland Upgrades Job Website




The Law Society of Scotland has launched an upgraded and updated version of its job vacancy pages here:

It has been built by Connect Communications, the publishing company behind 'The Journal', and boasts a newly improved 'New Lawyers' section offering information on summer placements and the latest traineeship opportunities.

Smartphone users can now even access this information on the mobile site,

Go on, pop over and see what's waiting for you…

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Scottish Parliament Visit

align=leftA couple of weeks ago, a colleague from the Pathways team and I took a group of local school pupils to the Scottish Parliament for a morning's visit.  The pupils , in fourth, fifth and sixth year, attended the tour as they had registered their interest in law with Pathways to the Professions. 

We went through the security check and proceeded to the waiting area where we were met by an Educational Officer.  The first session was in a mock classroom where the pupils heard all about the Parliament, how it works and how it differs from the Scottish Government.  The pupils had some insightful questions which were more than ably answered by the Scottish Parliament representative running the session.  

Next, we moved to another room where the pupils took part in a quiz called 'So You Want to be an MSP'.  It was a multiple choice quiz recapping on the information they had been given in the previous session.  And yes, they had been listening!

Lastly, we went into the Debating Chamber to watch part of a debate.  Unfortunately, our visit was a Thursday morning so we just missed First Minister's Questions (which is always entertaining) but the pupils did get to see how the chamber works and hear a bit of a debate about the Homecoming Scotland event issues.

I definitely plan to go back with another group and make it more of a regular thing as the pupils found it informative, interesting and inspirational.

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Vacancy: LawPALS Coordinator

We are currently looking for a new Coordinator for our Law Peer Assisted Learning Scheme (LawPALS).  The vacancy is up on SAGE now and applications are invited by email.  Informal questions to 

The Law Peer Assisted Learning Scheme (LawPALS) has been operating for four years at the School of Law. This programme provides all first year LLB students with the opportunity to join a peer assisted learning group with the intention of supporting their studies through the sometimes difficult transition from school or college to university.

Groups are facilitated by Student Leaders – students from the third and fourth year of the LLB programme – and the coordination of this programme is overseen by the LawPALS Coordinator. The employer is looking to appoint a student from the 2011/2012 postgraduate student body to fulfil the role of coordinator and lead the project under the supervision of the Widening Participation Officer.

This is not a teaching post, but it is an opportunity to develop leadership and student support skills, while gaining paid experience of developing and running an innovative scheme within the university.

The following are essential:
– LLB (or equivalent from another jurisdiction) graduate studying for postgraduate degree in the School of Law in 2011/2012,
– ability to easily interact with students and staff to achieve positive results,
– self-motivator,
– exemplary organisational skills,
– competent computing skills,
– confident public speaker.

The following are desirable:
– experience in managing and/or training volunteers,
– experience as a student mentor or peer assisted learning leader, and/or:
– tutoring experience.

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Happy 10th Birthday, Pathways to the Professions!

Pathways is 10!!  For those of you unsure about what Pathways is or does, it's a scheme run by The University of Edinburgh which aims to offer information, guidance and support to local school pupils considering applying to Law, Medicine, Veterinary Medicine and Architecture.  The pupils are often the first in their family to attend university or their school might have a low progression rate onto university.  The pupils are offered access to events designed to aid career exploration and most find it an extremely useful experience.

The School of Law has long supported Pathways and part of my role as Widening Participation Officer is to work alongside the team at Student Recruitment and Admissions (SRA) to organise and deliver sessions and events in support of the aims of the programme.  In Law, we're lucky to have the support of a good number of local firms as well as The Law Society of Scotland and The Faculty of Advocates.

I would like to pass a huge congratulations to Kathleen Hood, Widening Participation Manager, and her team at SRA.  It's a joy to be part of the Pathways team and is very rewarding work.  The birthday celebrations made the front page of the University website and you can view the story by clicking here.

Happy Birthday, Pathways!  Here's to another ten years…

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