Student Society Year in Review 2019
With an enviable reputation for excellence, our student societies are supported by and work closely with the School and our alumni network to keep relationships with the sector alive and strong. We asked this year's presidents to outline three of their society’s greatest achievements to celebrate the great work they’ve accomplished this academic year.
University of Bristol Bar Society – Outgoing President: Felix Gibson
1. We hosted our 6th Annual Networking Dinner
We hosted 50 barristers and 50 students at the Marriott Royal Hotel. This gave lots of students their first opportunity to network face-to-face with a barrister. Students had the option to choose a practice area that specially interested them and be seated with practitioners in that field. Students and barristers mingled freely at a drinks reception before sitting down to enjoy a three-course meal, opened with a welcome speech from the Society’s Patron, former Chairman of the Bar Andrew Langdon QC.
2. We introduced Advocacy Workshops
We were aware that many students wanted to learn how to become better advocates, but were intimidated by the thought of taking part in a competition without any experience. So, we introduced a series of informal student-led advocacy workshops to teach the basics in a low-pressure environment.
3. We ran Mock Inns of Court BPTC Scholarship Interviews for all students who needed one
For the first time ever, the Bar Society offered a mock Inns of Court BPTC Scholarship to every student that needed one. These one-on-one interviews were full simulations of each Inn’s interview procedure. They were conducted by current BPTC students who had won scholarships. Interviewees were able to specify which Inn they were applying to, and be interviewed by a student from that Inn.
University of Bristol Commercial Awareness Society – Outgoing President: Hannah Berzins
1. We completed our first year as a new society!
Gaining over 250 members and since January 2018, we have increased exposure both through promotion on campus and through our website - which contains an online student-written articles page and daily commercial news updates.
2. We ran bespoke workshops
We have run our first bespoke workshops including both student and external speakers (with 56% of students rating our most successful workshop as very useful and 42% rating it as useful.) These have included topics such as Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain, Cryptocurrencies and Brexit, to help students understand topics at the height of commercial interest and development.
3. We ran our first collaborative event
Our final achievement of the year was running our first collaborative event - our ‘Women in Fintech Panel’. This was a joint project between the Commercial Awareness Society, Women in Finance, Women in Law and Women in Tech Society. This allowed students to find out about the legal, financial and tech angles of recent FinTech developments first hand from our panellists.
University of Bristol Law Club – Outgoing President: Daryl Seow
1. We held a Diversity Week
In conjunction with participating firms and social mobility organisations, we held a novel Diversity Week. The week consisted of application workshops, panels, and networking lunches and dinners, all tailored towards topics not limited to BAME, LGBTQ+ and low social-economic demographics.
The aim was to equip students in a purposive manner, allowing them to leverage their backgrounds as strengths.
2. We Expanded the Commercial Awareness Programme
Only university law society that has a student-run programme by future trainee solicitors providing weekly sessions on the latest current affairs and mock sessions on case studies/interviews.
Increased the total number of participating firms by almost two-fold, from 7 to 12. The firms provide exclusive open days for members of the programme.
3. We introduced a new Round Table Debate Competition.
The debating sub-committee introduced a new round table debate that was focused on accessibility and easing prospective debaters into legal debate.
Premised on an informal setting, it provided the ideal environment for discursive debate that drew the focus away from competition and adversary.
Lawyers Without Borders, Bristol Division – Outgoing President: Lucy Siers
1. We hosted the annual LWOB Debate
This year, LWOB hosted its biggest debating competition yet! 30 entrants signed up to debate various human rights and rule of law motions, ranging from Brexit to the morality of ‘closed trials’ to the establishment of a new human right to a healthy environment. Each debate was kindly judged by members of the Law School who provided invaluable individual and group advice. The finals were judged by Mr Underwood, a member from LWOB’s headquarters. The final motion regarded how best to allocate resources to combat modern-day slavery. Mr Underwood remarked on the high level of the debate and confidence that emanated from all the speakers and encouraged them to consider a career at the bar. Students commented on how well organised the debates were, the supportive nature of the competition (which allowed them to feel more confident about trying new styles of debating), and the helpful feedback provided by members of the Law School who were judging which allowed some of them to progress from having never debated before all the way to the final round. As members of the LWOB student division, we have felt truly supported by the Law School and its Faculty, and look forward to hosting the same competition next year!
2. We achieved second place at LWOB’s Annual Rule of Law Competition
The annual competition aims to provide opportunities to contribute and aid the development of innovative educational mechanisms in rule of law. This year’s challenge was to create learning mechanisms for LWOB’s programs in Tanzania and Kenya, the winning product would be produced and used by LWOB within those countries.
The Bristol team of six first-year law students chose to create a public service campaign to raise awareness about the issue of GBV and domestic violence amongst Kenyan women. This included a booklet of information about women’s rights, the signs of domestic violence and how to seek help.
Overall, the team thoroughly enjoyed the final at King’s College London. They gave a fantastic presentation and were highly praised by the judges, rewarding them second place. This is a great achievement, going up against teams such as Durham and LSE. The team remarked on how grateful they were for the opportunity, especially to have the chance to develop their research skills outside of tutorial work and attain experience working with human rights issues, something which they felt was difficult to find.
3. We collaborated on joint Society events
This year, LWOB have expanded their connections with similar societies, Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) and Engineers Without Borders, to host social events to raise money for our respective organisations. Our Christmas quiz was a great success with a packed room at the White Harte pub, full of medics and lawyers, ready to put their knowledge to the test, all in aid of some great organisations. We hope that the bridges made with other societies like ourselves will help to boost awareness of the societies and their missions, and keep bringing everyone together to have fun and raise money. These events also demonstrate how this year, LWOB Bristol has grown, to include not only more members but also build up relationships with societies embarking on similar endeavours to our own. The events were also a great way for our members to unwind from our successful research project this year, producing a sensitive comparative report for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.
The University of Bristol Medical Law Society – Outgoing President: Holly Murphy
1. We hosted our 2nd Annual Medical Law Debate
This year’s medical law debate was bigger and better than ever, with more universities, more judges, and a really impressive prize for our two winners – a placement at Irwin Mitchell’s Bristol office! We were joined by the universities of Warwick and Swansea who both sent strong teams and put up an exciting fight. This year’s motions were about the Mental Capacity Act, the law on surrogacy, and the unseen final motion was regarding medicinal cannabis. Watch this space for next year’s debate!
2. We created our very own careers booklet
This year saw the creation of our very own medical law careers booklet. It includes advice ranging from medical negligence claimant and defendant firms, to careers at the bar, to alternative careers in healthcare policy. The booklet will be useful for anyone who may not want to jump on the commercial bandwagon! You can find our careers booklet on email, on our website, and some of the medical law tutors and law careers advisors have a copy too.
3. We hosted a variety of impressive speakers
Our speakers this year include Dr Hazel Biggs, who helped draft the GMC guidance on end of life decision-making; Emma Zeb, head of Personal Injury and Inquests at St John’s Chambers; Paul Sankey, a partner at Enable Law; our very own Dr John Coggon, an internationally recognised academic in Public Health law; and Julie Lewis, head of the Bristol Medical Negligence team at Irwin Mitchell. Julie is also the only female regional managing partner in Bristol. We have also had the pleasure of networking with representatives from Irwin Mitchell at a number of events. The calibre of speakers this year really shows how UBMLS is going from strength to strength!
University of Bristol Pro Bono Society – Outgoing President: Olivia Hunter
1. We held our first Charity Auction night
This took place as a Dutch style auction, which meant we started all prices at market value and then took them down until someone bid. The event was a great success, comprising of many prices, canapes, wine and over one hundred attendees within the beautiful Reception Room in Wills Memorial Building. Overall, we raised over £1000 for the Avon and Bristol Law Centre, so as to improve their facilities and clients' experience.
2. We worked alongside the All-Party Parliamentarian Group for Disability
We also worked alongside the APPG for Disability for the first time this year. We put together a team of fifteen members, who were in charge of leading this nation-wide project. All the information and fundraising they undertook for a final report about disability, access to voting and MPs. This has been put on hold but all the work they undertook will eventually come to fruition!
3. We organised our first ever trip to London for a DLA Piper private Open Day
We met their pro bono team and in particular our patron, Nicolas Patrick. This was an amazing event, in which all members who applied got a place. We also managed to fund the trip there and back, making it accessible to all students. The day consisted of a presentation by their pro bono team about the current issues in regards to legal aid cuts, a tour of their office, followed by a presentation by myself about the role of students in terms of pro bono work. Finally, we had an informal lunch were we discussed issues and asked any questions we had. I believe this event was a great opportunity to understand not only how pro bono work is key to commercial law firm's work, but also of its wider societal impact.
University of Bristol Women in Law Society – Outgoing President: Eliza Kirby
1. We introduced a Sixth Form Outreach Mentoring Scheme
The scheme aimed to empower young women to achieve their goals of attending top law schools. Prior to Christmas, we focussed on Year 13 students, offering advice on university choices, personal statements and most importantly, intensive weekly LNAT sessions. With the help of our mentors, all law students at Bristol, we have been able effectively prepare students in a practical and dynamic way – much more than a book could ever do! After Christmas, we focussed on year 12s, offering general advice on university selection, work experience and early preparation. It will be exciting to continue to support the year 12 students as they enter year 13 after the summer. This has been an immensely rewarding experience for all mentors and mentees enrolled onto the scheme with great results and feedback. In fact, at the most recent offer-holder open day, one of our mentees from City of Bristol College came and surprised us! She secured offers from all of her universities and has firmed Bristol (and is keen to be a future mentor!).
2. We collaborated on a new Women in Conversation week
For the first time at the University of Bristol, the Women in Law, Women in Finance, Women in STEM, Women in Tech, Women in Engineering and Women in Leadership societies came together to hold a week of events titled ‘Women in Conversation’. As a society we organised speakers from the legal sector for the Allyship, FinTech, Women in Leadership and Women in Law panel. The Women in Law panel, titled ‘How can the legal profession help promote career progression for women?’ was chaired by Bristol’s wonderful Joanne Conaghan and the panellists included high profile women in the legal profession, from both solicitor and barrister backgrounds. Important topics were raised such as motherhood, the effectiveness of quotas and typically ‘male’ traits to get to the top levels of the legal sector.
3. We co-hosted an empowering networking for women
As a part of the UBLC’s diversity and equality week in November we co-hosted a networking event for our members. We welcomed representatives of DLA Piper with an aim to inspire and empower female students at the University of Bristol. It was wonderful to hear about the experiences of women working in what are often male-dominated areas of law, proving that a legal career does not depend on your gender. Thanks to DLA Piper’s sponsorship we were able to host the event at The Florist with a selection of delicious cocktails and mocktails for our attendees. The event ran in an informal speed-networking style, spending time chatting with each of the DLA Piper representatives under timed conditions. We found that this really took the pressure off both the representatives and the attendees, adding a bit of fun to the event and minimising any awkwardness.
As a society, we were delighted to work with the UBLC. We support and encourage collaboration – it was great to see what we could pull off together!