The 17/18 President of UCL’s Lawyers Without Borders Student Division takes us through their activity at UCL, as well as plans for next year
President of LWOB UCL Student Division
Lawyers Without Borders is a pro bono organisation with a global presence. Its dedication to strong international ties and worldwide collaboration allow LWOB to draw upon the strength of lawyers from all over the world to face the legal challenges of the 21st century, particularly in the developing world. The charity does crucial work in parts of the world where the tradition of the Rule of Law – access to justice, equality before the state, open and fair criminal trials etc. – is in acute need of reinforcement and substantiation by trained legal experts. Historically, the charity’s recruitment of volunteers has been focused on the USA, Britain, and Australia, though its reach is expanding every year.
LWOB student division at UCL facilitates the core values of the organisation within the student community.
One of the first challenges to face when setting out to defend these values is a lack of general legal awareness. Often, the issues LWOB seek to confront remain largely outside the public eye – though naturally, the well-reported actions of leaders who seek to demolish existing Human Rights frameworks for political rather than legal reasons are also well covered by Lawyers Without Borders. This can lead to overarching misconceptions of the issues LWOB seek to tackle – therefore, the student division has taken steps to improve public understanding. In 2016 we began work to publish a termly newsletter, which we hope to continue into the next academic year. The aim of this publication is to bring the university community closer to the issues that LWOB, and the students who comprise our division, are seeking to solve. These issues have ranged from FGM and ethical commercial practice to the international legal framework and systemic governmental corruption. Similar issues have also been addressed by our weekly blog, which tends to explore legal aspects of current events such as the recent Miller case on Brexit and the Trump presidency.
We have also encouraged students and staff to attend events that serve to stimulate dialogue and promote discussion between experts and interested groups. Last year, for example, we hosted a lecture on the issue of modern slavery in the corporate world, at which guests including Amnesty International and UCL’s own Centre for Access to Justice (CAJ) spoke on this important issue. It is very important to the student division at UCL that we are able to bring such groups together, thereby improving collaboration between pro bono institutions.
In addition, the UCL division has been striving to reach out to the broader community. It is for this reason that we have been pushing social media as a useful channel for encouraging those who might not be aware of the importance of pro bono organisations to take interest in our causes on a case by case basis. We have developed an online presence on Facebook and Twitter, and hope to expand on this by working with other LWOB student divisions to broaden our reach.
Next term we hope to develop the work of the 16/17 academic year, in particular increasing our output of written content through our newly created publications subdivision. We will build on the events we created last year, as well as aim to host a larger conference attended by LWOB affiliations from across the country to bring legal experts from the university sector together.
As LWOB expands at UCL, having been founded last year, we hope to encourage more students to engage with the issues that Lawyers Without Borders defend daily, and encourage student activism in pro bono work generally.
In October 2017, we will be accepting applications for new members of the Lawyers Without Borders Student Division to work in subgroups. For more information, see the CAJ website (Here).