What is the Innovative Legal Week?
Earlier this month, students at the University of Nottingham had the opportunity to attend a series of lectures on rather unconventional areas of the law, as part of the ‘Innovative Legal Week’. This new project constituted a week during which ELSA Nottingham hosted lecturers from across the country, who made their way to the city of Robin Hood to provide introductory and engaging sessions on interesting and modern legal topics. It was our vision to expose students at the University of Nottingham to new and emerging topics of law – ones which students do not normally have the opportunity to study at the undergraduate or even postgraduate level, yet that are amongst those which people often find most interesting. And thus, ELSA Nottingham welcomed lecturers who gave talks on the topics of Space Law, Aviation Law, Climate Change Law and the Role of the EU as a Global Actor.
How did it come about?
As it is with many big projects, ELSA Nottingham had the idea of doing the ‘Innovative Legal Week’ for some time before actually going through with it. One could indeed say that the idea came out of the committee’s own concerns and worries. As most committee members are in their final and penultimate years of study, we often find ourselves staring into the abyss of the future not knowing which firm to apply to, which legal area to specialise in or what sort of postgraduate course to choose. Commercial law might have filled the hearts (and wallets) of most new aspiring lawyers, but it is not necessarily for everyone. Moreover, even those who have found their calling, can too benefit from learning about topics which have been in the forefront of legal change in recent years.
How did it unfold?
That being said, coming up with the idea of doing this series (or with an admittedly catchy name) was of course not enough. It was a lengthy process that involved engagement from all members of the committee. Firstly, we had to decide on the different topics. Secondly, we had to complete the ‘task’ of inviting the speakers. And thirdly, we had to master the logistics. While we had a hundred and one ideas for the topics, we are definitely happy with the ones we ended up focusing on – and, more importantly, so were the attendees; this can be observed through the turnout throughout the week and the really positive feedback we have received.
‘Internal’ preparations and the aforementioned logistics were crucial. Making sure to reserve the appropriate venues for the lectures in time, at a university where almost ten other law societies operate, required planning in itself and the submission of several relevant forms – bureaucracy is alive and kicking. And once everything was settled and in place, marketing and the miracle that is modern technology and social media came into play. It ensured that people would actually learn about the events taking place and attend in order to expand their knowledge. Finally, there was the food. And some hard decisions had to be made – to wine or not to wine? (Unfortunately, not to wine was the more budget friendly option)
Our society is poor, and we could never afford all this…
The event was a strain on our budget – there is no doubt about that. Being located outside of London automatically means that you are less ‘attractive’ to potential speakers – one way to overcome it is with a train ticket. Covering the transportation costs for lecturers coming from places such as London or Kent proved to be quite a feat. Adding to that the costs of snacks offered after each lecture and marketing materials such as flyers, the costs may become too high for a regional ELSA group to bear. To this end, the guidance of ELSA UK as to possible financial resources was influential, while the actual monetary support coming from the University of Nottingham’s Student Union and ELSA International was paramount in making the whole project feasible.
If there is a ‘budgetary’ lesson to be learnt from all of these it is this – where there is a will (and organisation and time management skills combined with some great application-writing abilities) there is a way!
Okay sounds cool, good for you, but did people like it?
Indeed, the feedback was really rewarding in itself. Not only did other students and members of staff congratulate us on the successful carrying out of the Innovative Legal Week, but they had a genuine opportunity to enjoy themselves and learn. We have had people say that they were thinking of pursuing an LLM in some of the areas that the lectures focused on and having the opportunity to experience these lectures really made a difference to them. Others commented on the fact that they were able to talk on a more informal basis with the different academics after the lectures, which gave them the ability to network with them, ask questions and get advice (and from my personal experience, their business cards). Finally, ELSA Nottingham itself has been able to establish a stronger presence on campus amongst law students, friendly relations with academics who are experts in their fields and carry out successful and interesting event, which will hopefully keep running in the next years to come.
At the end of the day, we would all much rather spend an hour learning about Animal Rights or Cyber Law than preparing for yet another Trusts tutorial.
Overall, I personally feel that it has been a very rewarding experience and have been really happy to organize it and see it through with the other members of my committee. What is an interesting footnote to the events, is that while we were planning to have a different lecture per day of the week, we ended up not having one on Thursday 14th February. Admittedly, as interesting as law may be, attending an extra lecture at 6pm on Valentine’s Day is not something most people envisage themselves doing. Love wins yet again!
Grigorios Fylaktou is a third year LLB student at the Univesity of Nottingham. He holds the position of Vice President for Seminars and Conferences at ELSA Nottingham.