How trainee solicitors have brought law to life for over 3,000 school students.
Since 2013 over 3,000 transition year students have completed the Law Society’s Street Law programme. Street Law is an initiative which places trainee solicitors studying at the Law Society in local schools to teach law in a practical way.
Originally developed in Georgetown University in the United States, the Street Law programme has been run by the Law Society for the last six years.
Each year, over 40 volunteer trainee solicitors participate. As part of the programme, the trainee solicitors attend an orientation weekend which prepares them to teach the Street Law course to Transition Year students at partnering DEIS (Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools) schools in the local community.
This year’s Street Law orientation weekend took place from 20-22 September and was facilitated by Professor Richard Roe and Melinda Cooperman from Georgetown University. The trainee solicitors will start teaching the programme in local DEIS schools later this month.
Teaching about social justice and equality
In 2018 trainee solicitor Nonie Bhanda volunteered with the programme and taught Street Law at her former school, Mercy Secondary School, Inchicore, Dublin 8.
“Street Law is a teaching programme that teaches young people about social justice, equality and key legal principals,” she said. “It’s a programme that gives them practical legal application of issues that affect them on a daily basis that they may not even be aware of.”
“Street Law helps students understand they have a part to play in shaping a society that appreciates their input and engagement.”
Engagement on real-life legal issues
Once orientation is completed, the trainee solicitors are put in pairs and attend a school in the community. They deliver the programme over six lessons and cover topics such as the court systems, family law, discrimination law and sexual offences.
“We taught six lessons every Friday for one hour and 30 minutes. The students were really engaged and had a good knowledge of key social and legal issues like fairness and equality,” said Ms Banda.
“They were also very knowledgeable about legal cases being reported in the media and asked many questions about the procedure and application of law. They had curiosity of legal issues such as consent, the courts system and the area of criminal law.”
Trainee solicitor April Rose Byrne also taught at her former school, Coláiste Bríde, Clondalkin, Dublin 22 and said she was surprised at the students’ knowledge, interest and enthusiasm.
“Although they were not legally old enough to vote they had so many views on past referendums,” she said. “They were full of ‘what ifs’ and ‘how comes’ which was refreshing and allowed for further and more in-depth discussions. They cared about topics we studied, especially the ones that directly affected them, such as consent.”
Street Law allows the school students to see how the law affects their daily lives and helps promote lifelong civic engagement.
“One of the key benefits of the programme for the students is that it gave them a chance to hear about real cases and find out about how the law is practically applied in real life,” said Ms Banda.
“We covered issues such as the fragility of jury selection, prejudices, the media’s role and the restorative nature of the criminal justice system.”
The Street Law programme also provides students with a first-hand experience of a Mock Trial hearing in the Criminal Courts of Justice, and offers an insight into what it might be like to train and study as a solicitor.
Ms Banda said the programme was an opportunity to make a positive contribution to young people and also a chance for her to grow and develop.
“Street law allowed me to give back to the community and provide an example to the girls that no matter where you are from, or what your post code is, you are entitled to fulfil your highest potential and do your best,” she said.
Street Law Prison
In the last four years, the Law Society has expanded the Street Law programme to Wheatfield Prison in partnership with the charity Solas and their Compass Programme for prisoners. The programme is also offered in Mercy Law Resource Centre, Mountjoy Prison and the Dóchas Centre.
Return to previous press releases