Researchers: Brónagh Heverin, Law Lecturer and Siobhan Cullen, Head of Department of Law and Humanities
Funding: €150,000 from the Teaching and Learning Enhancement Fund 2015 (Building Digital Capacity) for the development of ‘Street Law – a module to enhance the transferable skills of law students through a digitally resourced and digitally supported module in community legal education (undergraduate law students teaching second level students)’; followed by seed funding for a masters by research student; and followed by a further successful application for funding in the sum of €150,000 from the Teaching and Learning Enhancement Fund Phase 4 2018 Driving Enhancement through Capacity Building in Irish Higher Education for the development of ‘THE REAL PROJECT (Reimagining Experiential Academic Learning)’.
Street Law at LYIT is a student led form of Public Legal Education where undergraduate law students create and deliver workshops with a variety of audiences ranging from second level students to community groups. The workshops use interactive teaching methodologies to provide legal education to members of the public, many of whom have legal issues but no access to lawyers, and so provide an invaluable free or pro bono service in addressing unmet legal need.
The Street Law method is internationally accredited as being mutually beneficial for both the trainers (our third level students) and the participants (their audiences). Popular practical law topics covered include awareness of human rights/civil rights, democratic principles, conflict resolution, criminal justice, practice and procedure, sports law, employment law and civil liberties. Typically, the target audience choose the areas of law that they would like to learn about.
Introduction of the Street Law module in LYIT represented a new departure in undergraduate legal pedagogy in Ireland and simultaneously created the space for collaboration between third level institutions, second level schools and their communities.
LYIT law students are trained in the use of an interactive teaching methodology which they then use to deliver Street Law workshops using activities such as simulation, role-play and debate. The primary audiences are transition year students in several secondary schools across County Donegal. In addition, each cohort of LYIT Street Law students also deliver classes to other audiences which has included early school leavers from a variety of schools, DeafHear in Letterkenny and Youth Reach groups from across County Donegal.
Engagement with external bodies is fundamental to Street Law. The initiation of each Street Law programme requires engagement and collaboration with the partnering institution, whether it be a second level school or a community organisation. This engagement identifies an unmet legal need which is followed by collaboration to develop a series of Street Law workshops deliverable by LYIT students to address the need. The engagement continues throughout delivery by the LYIT students where the law is introduced in an accessible, engaging, interactive and responsive manner to ensure its continued relevance to the audience.
Street Law at LYIT has a positive impact at several levels. The LYIT students are given an opportunity to take their learning to a new level by creating interactive workshops to teach legal concepts which in turn develops their professional and transferable skills as required by the Hunt Report. Research has shown that participation in Street Law at LYIT has specifically enhanced the communication and critical thinking capacities of students.
Street Law at LYIT also impacts the primary audience of Transition Year School students in the Partner Secondary Schools on many levels, ranging from provision of basic legal education to potentially fostering ambitions towards a legal career. Additional audiences receive similar benefits but also the practical benefit of personalised legal information otherwise inaccessible to them.
The LYIT Street Law programme was first delivered in the academic year 2016/17 and was shortlisted for the Irish Education Awards 2018 in two categories, Best Student Engagement and Best Outreach Programme.