On the 21st of March, ELSA Queen Mary invited Lady Hale of Richmond to the Mile End Campus in London to have a conversation with our members. The President of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, Lady Hale is the highest judge in the land whose judgments and dissents have inspired many law students and lawyers across the UK through the year as she is viewed as a true advocate of equality and women’s empowerment, breathing progressive values into the century-old common law.
For our local group, inviting the Supreme Court Justice was perhaps one of the biggest events we did this academic year. In collaboration with the well-known political think-tank, the Mile End Institute, we hosted 230 students and academics from QMUL and other universities to listen to an insightful speech delivered by Lady Hale and afterwards ask questions. The variety of topics covered in the lecture was tremendous and reflected the diversity of legal backgrounds in the audience, with questions being raised about gambling, mental health, equity & trusts, and criminal law.
However, many questions also addressed Lady Hale’s inspiring work towards gender equality. One cannot deny the still significant lack of diversity in both the Judiciary and the Bar and Lady Hale justly pointed out through certain amusing statements that such an imbalance has become a relic from the past. Her eloquence and engagement with the audience attracted widespread enthusiasm and the mesmerising glares in many attendants’ eyes were a clear sign that the event was successful.
Surely, her responses never interfered with current affairs, notwithstanding that she addressed questions about judicial independence and criticisms from the press upon her work in a reserved fashion and dealt with them professionally. As a former university lecturer she nevertheless seemed to enjoy speaking to the young crowd with an eye for detail and humour that enthralled many. A powerful applause was therefore the appropriate means to thank the legal superstar, followed by flowers as a sign of gratitude for her motivational words.
From a personal perspective, I cannot express how proud I am as a president to see how our society has developed this academic year. All our departments delivered outstanding work ranging from our newly launched ELSA Law Review to 17 (!) S&C events, newly organised Trainings Sessions in collaboration with ELSA International and various of our 23 board members spreading out across the world participating in Delegations, SELS, and so much more. Our AA department has also sent a mooting team to the EHRMCC Finals in Strasbourg in May with all costs fully funded by our Law School and the Centre of Commercial Legal Studies at Queen Mary.
As I soon become an ELSA alumnus after my final exams, I will look back at an ELSA career that has brought me opportunities beyond belief, but foremost offered me friendships that will last a life time with people from across Europe and further.
In the words of our ‘royal’ legal guest – “I want your generation to become one of gender equality and recognition for hard work delivered by anyone, regardless of their identity.” May Queen Mary carry its title as ‘Best Local Group of ELSA UK 2017-2018’ with pride and sustain the past efforts of many others that I have witnessed myself throughout my 3 years with ELSA.
Victor Van de Wiele is a final year LLB Law & Politics at Queen Mary, University of London. He is set to commence his LLM in Global Health Law at Georgetown University next autumn. He has served as a Director for Seminars & Conferences (2015-2016), Vice-President for Seminars & Conferences (2016-2017) and President of ELSA Queen Mary (2017-2018).