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Social mobility charity’s ‘Model Law Commission’ gets students thinking about what being a lawyer actually means

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Big Voice London aims to bring people who see the world differently into the profession

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A London-based youth organisation is helping state school kids forge a career in a profession dominated by the privately educated.

The legal profession is no stranger to swipes about its lack of diversity. One particular point of contention is the profession’s overrepresentation of privately educated lawyers, particularly in the top ranks.

The profession is now experiencing a new wave of pro-diversity projects. Aiming to reduce the social mobility problem, underprivileged children that might otherwise face hurdles to access the profession are now benefiting from programmes designed to help them get their foot in the door.

One organisation doing just that is Big Voice London. Created in 2010 by a group of City Law School postgrads, the youth organisation aims to:

[E]mpower young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, predominantly aged 16-18, through knowledge of the law and legal policy.

The legal outreach programme is targeted at students aged 16-18 from non-fee paying schools, offering them the chance to get involved in, for example, mooting competitions and summer schools.

One project offered by Big Voice London caught our eye — the Model Law Commission. This gives students the opportunity to play law commissioner, identifying problems in the current law and find solutions to these problems.

The three-month project — that runs every Thursday at City Law School — culminates in a launch event at parliament, where the students present their views in front of their peers, their parents, legal professionals and politicians.

Legal Cheek caught up with 17-year-old Yoginni Gopal — a sixth form student and participant in the Model Law Commission project — to find out about the experience.

Gopal, who got involved in Big Voice London after a recommendation from her history teacher, described the experience as “rewarding and informative”.

She told us that students were split into four groups to work on four different areas of law: criminal, commercial, family, and public. Gopal was a member of the criminal law team — the most oversubscribed area — that focused specifically on the defence of insanity. The team were briefed on the current state of the law by their teamleaders and by guest speakers, and then it was their job to identify its problems.

As someone who had never studied law before, Gopal found the experience invaluable. She explains:

I didn’t know much about criminal law before I started, having not studied law at A-level, so the experience really helped me a lot. We received lots of information on the current law.

On 16 December, the groups presented their reform proposals to parliament. Of the experience, Gopal recalls:

Going to parliament was really interesting, but it was nerve-wracking to speak in front of the whole group, plus their parents and the professionals.

Gopal now hopes to become a criminal barrister, and was able to bag some career advice during the project.

This week, a new Big Voice London project kicks off — ‘A review of a year in law with the UK Supreme Court’. Gopal and co will be taking a look at some of 2015’s most interesting case law, and writing a report on what they have learnt from it.

To spur the group on, the three best students over the course of the project will have their own meet and greet with one of the Supreme Court judges — which Legal Cheek thinks is a great prize.

The students don’t yet know the identity of the Supreme Court judge, but our money’s on law student favourite and Beyoncé of the bench Baroness Hale.