On Wednesday the 21st of September 2022 SHU Law staff and students had the privilege of attending a talk hosted by the President of the Law Society of England and Wales, I. Stephanie Boyce at the Sheffield & District Law Society. This was a fantastic opportunity to meet with other professionals and in particular hear about Stephanie’s own journey into the profession.
Stephanie talked about how she is the sixth female and first person of colour to be elected as president. It is so exciting to see this representation in our field and was inspiring for us to listen to especially considering that she had started out as Deputy Vice-President, subsequently becoming Vice-President in 2020 and became president in 2021. Her perseverance was motivational to those who themselves are competing in the legal world for their next opportunity as Stephanie had put herself forward for president on four separate occasions and had ensured that she remained resilient in her quest to secure the role.
Role of the Law Society
The Law Society is an independent body and acts as the voice of solicitors, amongst their aims is the objective to safeguard the rule of law and ensure access to justice for all. The Law Society also monitors issues with the legal profession and are able to communicate with other professional bodies. For example, the introduction of the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) has been discussed by the law society and potential issues with regard to if the SQE is meeting the aim of increasing diversity in the legal profession is being met are being discussed.
As president some of Stephanie’s aims were to help the public in understanding legal issues and their rights in order to provide them with the tools to make better decisions and be able to be a part of shaping decisions that affect them. This is such an important aspect of increasing access to justice because as Stephanie mentioned in her talk on Wednesday, ‘‘Legal rights mean nothing if you don’t know what they are’’.
Stephanie also talked about how the legal sector is becoming more diverse and has become so in the past years, but it is not where it needs to be yet. She went on to talk about how diverse and inclusive teams that reflect the diversity of the community are essential and achieving this has been one of her aims.
Work we are doing at SHU Law:
In line with some of the points that Stephanie raised at her talk, here at SHU Law we are introducing an anti-racism initiative where we will deliver a programme of Public Legal Education (PLE) to schools within the local Sheffield community. We were so excited and thrilled that Stephanie was interested in our bid to launch our anti-racism department. The PLE programme will include a focus on racialised communities in an attempt to reduce racial inequalities in the Criminal Justice System and increasing the diversity of the legal field.
We are aiming to deliver a session on accessing higher education/legal careers to best equip the students with resources that will assist them in their further education. This will include providing the students with information on legal careers such as the different routes to higher education and resources such as information on mentoring programmes etc. The outcome we hope to achieve is encouraging more students, particularly from racialised communities to join the legal profession making it a more representative field and therefore providing equal opportunity for all.