Bristol Business School and Bristol Law School host alumni networking event in their new building

Posted on

In late May, the Bristol Business School and Bristol Law School hosted an alumni networking event in their new building.

The event was an opportunity for alumni to see first-hand the new state of the art facilities that the new Bristol Business School has to offer including a Bloomberg trading room and three fully equipped Law courts.

@tom_sparey-10

The alumni at the event were given a brief talk from faculty Dean Donna Whitehead, before getting the opportunity to take part in guided tours around the building. Tours were led by academics from both schools.

@tom_sparey-15.jpg

The Bristol Business School opened in April to staff and students. The £55 million project will now house staff and students from the Bristol Business School and Bristol Law School, as well as providing office space for local businesses. More on the building can be found here.

More photos of the event can be found here.

Amy Man Attends Conference on ‘Sustainable Market Actors for Responsible Trade and Investment Conference’ in Oslo

Posted on

On 9 May 2017, a 2-day conference on Sustainable Market Actors for Responsible Trade and Investment (SMART) was held in Oslo, Norway. This event was organised in collaboration between Beate Sjafjell (University of Oslo), Tonia Novitz and Clair Gammage (University of Bristol), who chaired the conference, which was held at the University of Oslo. A series of papers were presented by notable academics within this field; a number of topics were covered. These topics range from: renewable energy under WTO law; using WTO law to limit child labour; sovereign debt issues, and promotion of human rights through international investment agreements.

On 10 May 2017, Amy Man, PhD Candidate and Associate Lecturer at UWE Bristol presented her paper on ‘New Players and Old Rules: A Critique of the China-Ethiopia and China-Tanzania Bilateral Investment Treaties’. Amy Man’s presentation argued that international investment law is not best placed to reflect the economic interests of developing host states. This is because it is underpinned by a neo-liberal assumption that welcoming foreign direct investment (FDI) will automatically boost economic development and improve the standard of living within a developing host state context. Furthermore, international investment law originates from a post-colonial context which traditionally favours the interests and rights of foreign investors and capital-exporting states. Amy Man stressed that although there are new players in this regime, such as China, which has taken some positive steps in the right direction but these changes are minimal because the overall legal framework needs reform.

Academics attending the conference questioned whether inserting social clauses into investment agreements was an appropriate venue to do so. Amy Man highlighted that there is a degree of overlap between different international law regimes and to ensure protection for the public interest, such provisions in international investment agreements are needed. Additionally, she highlighted that the current international human rights framework lacks adequate mechanisms to address this overlap. Other scholars questioned Amy Man as to whether China’s positive adaptation of the rules within international investment law was simply a token gesture, which cannot be evidenced in practice.

In ICSID (International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes) arbitration, there have been few cases initiated by Chinese investors. Notable examples include Ping An v. Belgium or Tza Yap Tsum v. Peru. The few number of Chinese cases is partly due to China is still an emerging actor in this field, so it is still navigating the legal and institutional frameworks. It is also based on Chinese Confucian values of ‘fa’ and ‘li’ that guide its value system and its reluctance to engage in arbitration. This is an area that is a developing area within legal scholarship and one that Amy Man is researching on for her PhD.

To watch video streams of the conference and Amy’s presentation, see: https://www.facebook.com/UniOsloSMART

Strong UWE Presence at Association of Law Teachers Conference 2017

Posted on

At the annual ALT Conference 2017, UWE Law staff were well represented and gave a number of well received papers. The conference themes focussed on learning, teaching, assessment, clinics, and wellbeing of lawyers and law teachers and students. Michael Mansfield QC gave the keynote address.

Rachel Wood, who is secretary of the ALT, and Marcus Keppel-Palmer gave a paper looking at the challenges of assessing reflection, and whether strict criteria reduce the authenticity of the experience. The paper was attended by a large audience and prompted reflection amongst attendees on their own experience.

Kathy Brown and Zainab Khan contributed to a session about the work of the African Prisons Project, drawing on their recent visits to Kenya and Uganda, working with prisoners who are studying for law degrees, and also assisting prisoners seeking to challenge unconstitutional laws. Both spoke movingly about case work that they had undertaken.

Laura Walker gave a paper reflecting on her ongoing research she is undertaking with Caroline Strevens (Portsmouth University) into the wellbeing of staff engaged in pro bono clinic activity, research which shows at this early stage that such staff are more resilient and enjoy a greater satisfaction than corresponding University teaching staff.

The ALT Conference 2018 will be held at Keele University, and any law staff wishing to join the ALT should contact Rachel Wood.

UWE Elderlaw Pro Bono Team Making A Difference

Posted on

One strand of the Pro Bono offering from the Bristol Law School is the Elderlaw team of students, who are focussed on matters relating to Wills, Probate and Powers of Attorney.

This year has seen the team participating in “Make A Will Week”, an annual initiative run by the Law Society.

The Elderlaw team of 8 students ran a Wills service from the Citizens Advice Bureau in Fairfax Street in Bristol City Centre, as well as at Paul’s Place Charity in Coalpit Heath.

Students met clients, took instructions, drafted Wills and finalised the arrangements and paper work.

Student lead, Brooke Lewis said:

“This is a fantastic opportunity to make a real difference to people and also to put into practice our knowledge”.

In addition to making Wills, the team has also assisted clients of Paul’s Place in making Lasting Powers of Attorney, which can include provision for relatives to make decisions about care home issues. This has followed on from previous sessions run at the Disability Charity’s premises in Coalpit Heath, where the team put on a Q and A session about making a Will.

As well as this client facing activity, the Elderlaw team has produced a series of leaflets, podcasts and posters about matters surrounding Wills and Probate, launched a website and run a blog.

Marcus Keppel-Palmer (Director of Pro Bono) said:

 “I am very proud of the hard work of these students, and am most impressed by the professional way they have dealt with difficult topics with the clients. So many people want to have help from the team that we will be running another session at the CAB in the autumn”.

UWE Law students say ‘Magic Circle’ scheme opens up a whole new world

Posted on

Students from the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) are effusive about the way a ‘magic circle’ law firm has opened up their vision about possibilities they had thought were reserved for a privileged few.

The world leading ‘magic circle’ law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Derniger runs an annual Stephen Lawrence Scholarship (SLS) designed to address under-representation in large commercial law firms of black men from low-income households. The scheme is aimed at first year law students.

Several UWE Bristol students have gone through the competitive process and they say that the insights have helped to widen their vision about future employment plans.

Jeremiah Daliel is currently studying on the Legal Practice and Masters in Law combined course. He said,

“Initially I didn’t have a clue about what went on in the professional legal world. The process has helped me to understand how a large successful firm operates.

“I had vague ideas about employment but my sights were set quite low. The SLS process opened my eyes to the scope of legal roles and helped me to focus where I want to be when I enter the profession next year.

Although I didn’t win an actual scholarship the scheme helped with making good contacts and mentors who I am able to seek out when I need some professional advice.

The scheme gave me the chance to learn so much from mistakes. I now know that when I finish this year that I want to commit to working for a large law firm that will present a range of opportunities as I progress through my career.”

Samuel Babia (pictured) has been put forward for the scheme this year. He said,

“It is humbling that the loss of the life of a young man, Stephen Lawrence, has opened the golden gate of life transforming opportunities for many black male students providing a platform for some black students, with exceptional talents, to realise their dreams.

At the Freshfields Stephen Lawrence Scholarship Insight Day I was impressed at the astonishing size of the office building and its elegance which surpassed everything my ‘open mind’ imagined. The staff members were friendly and constantly engaging in conversation with us.

We had various sessions that helped us understand the weight and spectrums of Commercial Law practice. Following an interview, I was nominated by UWE for the Freshfields scholarship scheme.

This process of assessments has completely transformed my understanding of the Commercial Law in practice and given me a clearer sense of direction. My drive for excellence is now fuelled to work hard and strive towards this once in a lifetime opportunity.”

Kathy Brown, Programme Leader and Senior Lecturer at UWE Bristol, said,

“The Stephen Lawrence Trust scholarship scheme offered by Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer through the Department of Law at UWE has provided some of our students with a unique opportunity to meet the partners, associates and trainee solicitors at a magic circle law firm.

This tends to be the preserve of the highest achieving students from Russell Group universities. Students who attend Freshfields get an insight into a world that has never been part of their vision. It opens eyes, minds and doors. It promotes self-growth and a vision beyond low expectations.”

To find out more about studying law at UWE Bristol click here.

Law students present their research report to a local support service for survivors of rape & sexual abuse

Posted on

On Wednesday 25 April, there was a Centre for Applied Legal Research Forum event that featured a talk by Rowan Miller who is Director of Somerset and Avon Rape and Sexual Abuse Support (SARSAS).

As part of the event, Rowan was presented with a student authored research report that answered a series of questions posed by SARSAS staff and volunteers.

The 26 page report is the culmination of detailed research and writing by law and joint honours degree students who have studied on the LLB’s  Sexual Offences and Offending module.  This is a voluntary project and is not a formal part of the module. It is supervised by Ed Johnston and Phil Rumney.

Four of the authors, Ben Howells, Xavier Stride, Angharad Griffiths and Ellen Rye met with Rowan who expressed her appreciation for the detailed work involved in the writing of the report.

The other student authors of the report are: Leah Blackman, Kathy Boyle, Jessica Cambridge, Rebecca Davies, Carole Orchard, Ryan Small and Thomas Watts. All the authors are LLB students, or those pursuing joint honours degrees with law.

New £55 million building will change how UWE Bristol does business

Posted on

Staff and students working and studying at Bristol Business School (BBS) and Bristol Law School (BLS) at the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) have moved in to a new state of the art £55million building.

The building is the jewel in the crown of a significant £300m capital investment programme across all campuses and will enable UWE Bristol to offer a new way forward in Business and Law Education to benefit students and businesses in the region.

Designed to foster formal and informal interaction between businesses the new facility promises to bring many benefits to the regional economy.

b

Donna Whitehead, Pro Vice-Chancellor and Executive Dean of BBS and BLS says,

“This will be a live environment where staff and students and business work together – with collaboration at its core.

“We consult with our advisory board of key business figures who challenge us to make our provision meet the needs of employers and the latest developments in the business world.”

Professor Steve West, President and Vice-Chancellor at UWE Bristol, said,

“It is wonderful to see this flagship build fully occupied. But it’s not really about the building, it is about what will happen inside it.

“At UWE Bristol we teach business differently. A UWE education goes beyond getting industry accreditation, important though this is.

“We are harnessing relationships with thousands of businesses across the region, nationally and internationally helping us to shape our courses so that our students develop the skills that are needed to help the economy thrive.”

Donna Whitehead continues,

“Already UWE Bristol students are demonstrating entrepreneurial spirit through our Team Entrepreneur course where a degree is earned by students collaborating in teams to create and run a business over a three year period under the guidance of mentors.

 “We foster an enterprise mindset in all our students. Last year Bristol Law School students doing pro bono work gained £1 million in welfare benefits for people wrongly declared fit for work.

“They also advise start-ups and tech businesses though our Business Clinic, which will diversify into digital marketing, finance and tax advice over the next year. This service has been set up in collaboration with Bristol law firm Gregg Latchams Ltd and international legal practice Osborne Clarke LLP and is based at the Future Space Centre on Frenchay Campus.

 “Activities like these keep us in touch with what is happening in the region and provides students with relevant work and placement opportunities as they interact with business, owners and developers.”

d

Features of the new building include two showcase law courts, a city trading room, a 300 seat lecture theatre, two Harvard lecture theatres, an incubator for our Team

Entrepreneurs, technology enhanced and flexible learning spaces, IT suites, meeting facilities and parking for business, an external business engagement space, a central social space and a café.

Key professional organisations will have a base in the new building enabling barristers, accountants, small business owners and start-ups to mix with staff and students in the learning and social areas.

Throughout the building there are flexible workspaces that staff, students and visitors can use.

c

See also a 3D-modelled film showcasing the internal design, layout and infrastructure and also a YouTube 360 degree video visualisation of the new building.

Bristol Business School recently achieved the prestigious European programme accreditation (EPAS), placing it in an elite and internationally recognised group of modern Business Schools.

Head of Law Steve Dinning comments on the opening of the new Bristol Business School

Posted on

The Bristol Law School and Bristol Business School have just completed their move into the new Bristol Business School building. Below Steve Dinning, Head of Law at UWE Bristol, comments on the move:

After several years of planning and hard work, we have finally moved into the new Bristol Business School, a state of the art building that houses UWE’s Bristol Law School and Bristol Business School.

As Head of Law at UWE, I’m excited for the learning experiences we can provide to our students now we are in the building, from practice led learning in our fully functioning Law courts to enabling student led learning with the help of several social and quiet learning spaces.

We are committed to offering our students a wide variety of extra-curricular activities such as the opportunity to get involved in one or more of our award winning pro-bono projects. Our successful pro-bono clinic is housed in the new building bringing together students, our trained staff and local supporting firms and other organisations.

This really is an exciting time for us and I hope many of you will be able to visit the new building and experience what we have to offer first hand.

Guest Talk on ‘Islamic Law and Human Rights: The Way Forward for the 21st Century’ by Dr Anicée van Engeland, 8 March 2017

Posted on

The International Law and Human Rights Unit organised on 8 March 2017 a talk on ‘Islamic Law and Human Rights’. The speaker, Dr Anicée van Engeland, Senior Lecturer in International Security at Cranfield University, shared with us her views on how Islamic law and human rights law can be reconciled.

Dr van Engeland started by explaining that much of Islamic law was rooted in the past and it was imperative to understand this first. To illustrate this she took a well-chosen example for 8 March, ie women’s day. She pointed out that women in many Islamic States are not allowed to drive car and this stems from the prohibition for women to ride camels as this type of action would lead to women losing their dignity. Similarly, many of the deeds and speeches of ISIS are grounded in old Islamic law. For example, Islamic law provided for a framework on how to treat minorities and those who did not want to convert to Islam had to pay taxes.

As these Islamic law norms do not comply with the idea of universality of human rights they undoubtedly puts this concept at risk. But how true is that? After all, human rights law is already fragmented. A simple look at the existence of numerous regional mechanisms shows that regional versions of human rights law are acknowledged in the human rights discourse. A second issue is that Islamic law is a system based on religion entirely whilst the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is not. It is thus much more difficult to amend and/or reform Islamic law than human rights law.

Dr van Engeland explained that after 9/11 much attention was devoted to understanding Islamic law in relation to international law and more specifically human rights law. Such an interest however plummeted after ISIS spread across the Middle East. She lamented this fact, underlining that a conversation between Islamic law and human rights was essential. How can we reconcile the two? Why should we listen to these different voices?

As highlighted by Dr van Engeland, many theories on the relationship between Islamic law and human rights law have been formulated. It is possible to see this relationship in light of Huntington’s clash of civilisation. It is also possible to pinpoint that every right referred to in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is also in the Koran. A third path that does not refer to the universalism or cultural relativism of human rights seeks to listen to alternative voices and to build a dialogue. Abdullahi An-Na’im is, as Dr van Engeland pinpointed, the first scholar who promoted such an approach, advocating for a change of Islamic law from within using the tools given in Islamic law to promote a new reading of the Koran that makes it more human rights-orientated.

20170308_145608.jpg

Dr van Engeland remarked that this trend of reforming Islamic law is not new however and has had some success. For example, the Iranian civil society managed to reform the law relating to the care of children in divorce proceedings. Under the law, a girl until the age was 7 stays with her mother and thereafter with her father. In the instant the mother started proceedings as she was concerned about the health and well-being of her daughter. The law was applied and the child died of ill-treatment. The law was then amended so that judges would be able to look at the best interest of the child, thereby integrating a human rights concept specific to children’s right. Dr van Engeland adduced a second example, that of Morocco whose Head of State reformed the law.

Nevertheless, this reformist approach is not without problems. First, not every verse can be reformed. For example the punishment of theft by amputation cannot be given any other reading. The same holds true of the issue of homosexuality which cannot be reconciled with Islamic law using the Islamic tools of interpretation. Despite this criticism, Dr van Engeland explained that some scholars such as Professor Mashood Baderin continue to work on this theory, inch by inch attempting to provide a human rights interpretation of Islamic law using Islamic theories and teachings. Prof Baderin also uses the concept of ‘public interest’ as a tool to this effect. So, Dr van Engeland explained, scholars such as Tariq Ramadan, advocate for a moratorium on amputation on the basis that it does not spread a good message around the world and that instances of history show that it was not used all the time.

Second, re-interpreting Islamic law can be done by anyone and lead to any interpretation. Indeed in Islam there is no one person who tells the truth which means that there is no one interpretation that is more correct. This lack of hierarchy can be problematic. Furthermore, Islamic law competes with cultural norms and local and regional customary law. For example, in Afghanistan a woman whose husband had gone fighting but did not return asked the elders for permission to remarry on the assumption that he was dead. They allowed for the marriage to proceed but when the first husband came back the elders punished the woman with zina, ie adultery.

More recent scholarly work on Islamic law and human rights law argues that Islamic law cannot work in a modern nation-State, namely because it was not meant to work in this context. Dr van Engeland disagrees with this proposition, pointing out that Sudan, Iran and Pakistan are examples of States where Islamic law is applied and works in the context of a State. Other scholarly works insist that Islamic law should be a private matter and that in the past secularism existed in Islamic times and places. Dr van Engeland however explained that Islamic law does not work well in such a context. Whilst she agreed that there were problems with human rights compliance Dr van Engeland stressed that it could not be generalised and one of the key problems was that Western legal theories were applied when in fact more original, creative thinking was needed.

So, Dr van Engeland suggests starting by looking at the facts and one that is of considerable importance is that Islamic law was meant to stay and withstand the time. Thus, arguing that it cannot adapt is fundamentally misleading. In fact there are areas of law where Islamic law has shown great flexibility such as Islamic banking law. Other examples adduced by Dr van Engeland were that in light of climate change eating crickets was allowed. Also, to protect the population from diseases certain types of vaccinations were permitted in Malaysia. All this illustrate the reaction and flexibility of Islamic law. That being said, she underlined that there are unfortunately areas that are difficult to adapt to modern times.

All this must be analysed in a wider conceptual framework. First, the idea that human rights are widely accepted needs to be challenged. In fact it appears that human rights are cracking everywhere. Also, the argument that liberalism and democracy go hand in hand with human rights is rebuttable. Second, a framework of thinking based on the dichotomy between universalism and cultural relativism needs to be dismissed as lacking usefulness. Third, often a post-colonial framework is used to understand Islamic law and, as a result, this narrows down the tools that can be used to interpret and understand Islamic law.

Dr van Engeland concluded that the current paradigms are ill-suited to tackle the issue well and creative, innovative and flexible thinking was required to enter into a dialogue between Islamic law and human rights. She argued that confronting Islamic law from a holistic viewpoint is unlikely to work. It was necessary to work issue by issue, point by point.

Professor Michael Dougan’s Distinguished Professorial Address – UWE, 29 March 2017

Posted on

It was with great pleasure that we welcomed Professor Michael Dougan at UWE. He shared his views on the consequences of Brexit on the UK and the EU.

The title of his Address was ‘The UK outwith the EU and the EU without the UK’.

His address could not have come at a better time on the day Prime Minister Theresa May sent the letter of notification to Donald Tusk, the President of the European Council, to trigger the application of Article 50 TEU. We had some inkling that the triggering of Article 50 might coincide with the 60th anniversary of the European Union!

Professor Dougan was formally introduced by Dr Noëlle Quénivet, Associate Professor of International Law. Yet, Professor Dougan needs no introduction to those who have studied or are familiar with EU law. Many of our undergraduate and postgraduate students should know him from the EU workshops reading lists which include his writings, notably his comprehensive commentary of the Lisbon Treaty and his insightful article ‘When Worlds Collide’ that explores the relationship between the principles of supremacy and direct effect.

Those who are less familiar with Professor Dougan’s scholarly writings might have watched some of his video clips in which he clearly presents and discusses Brexit legal issues. The Liverpool Law School website uploaded his latest video clip on the impact of Brexit on Northern Ireland.

Professor Dougan is a well renowned legal scholar who holds a Jean-Monnet Chair at the University of Liverpool and is the Head of the Law School.

We are very thankful that he agreed to come to UWE to share his thoughts on Brexit despite a very busy schedule.

Professor Dougan first made five preliminary key commentaries showing the contradictions and shortcomings of the Government’s policy towards future relations with the EU as expressed in Theresa May’s Brexit speech and the Brexit White Paper of February 2017 and based on the two main tenets of the Leave campaign: hostility to EU immigration and hostility towards the European Court of Justice.

Then, Professor Dougan’s address focussed on two issues which, in his opinion, received relatively less attention in the public and political debate: how leaving the EU will impact upon the internal functioning of the UK legal system; and how the UK’s departure might affect the future evolution of the EU legal order itself.

md2

With regard to the first issue, after dissecting the UK Government’s basic strategy for addressing the twin challenges to achieve the aim of preserving legal continuity and legal certainty by retaining and incorporating existing EU rules into UK law at the point of withdrawal (through a so-called Great Repeal Bill, see Great Repeal Bill White Paper of March 2017) and to leave the task of making substantive decisions about which parts of EU law the UK will want to keep or amend or axe for future parliaments and governments after withdrawal, Professor Dougan’s expressed the overall view was that ‘UK withdrawal is not just about finding a new relationship with the EU.  It is also about opening our own legal and political systems to processes of far-reaching change.  Much of that change will inevitably be a matter of deep contestation and division among politicians / stakeholders / citizens.  But much of it will also be driven / constrained by our new place in the world and the new balances of power which emerge between the UK and our international partners.’

Before delving on the second issue, Professor Dougan first noted that outside Brexit, the Union is still facing a number of big challenges ranging from safeguarding the stability of the single currency and finding a stronger path towards economic growth; dealing with the migration crisis aggravated by difficult relations with Turkey; security issues exacerbated by notably Islamic terrorism; rising Russian belligerence in the East and increasing US instability in the West; to the worsening rule of law problems in Hungary and Poland. Independently of the EU response to the UK’s withdrawal, those crises are exerting pressure on the EU to adapt and reform itself.

Observing that ‘the UK referendum has given specific impetus to the desire for a coordinated reflection upon the EU’s future development and that soon after the UK referendum, the leaders of the EU27 decided to initiate their own reform agenda’ through their joint statement shortly after the UK referendum result, the Bratislava Declaration and Roadmap of the EU 27, the Commission White Paper on the Future of Europe and the European Council’s Rome Declaration, Professor Dougan proceeded with discussing a set of ‘important questions to which there are as yet no real answers’ such as: what issues might be on the agenda for the EU’s own reform process; and which legal instruments might the EU27 chose, in order to deliver the desired reforms?

He then focussed on the issue ‘which at least feels amenable to some degree of meaningful analysis and discussion’ ie the impact of UK withdrawal upon the Union’s institutions and policies.

In his concluding remarks, he reflected that ‘UK withdrawal provides a strong stimulus to EU reform, much of which was likely in any event.  But UK withdrawal will surely influence the nature and scope of those reforms: they may well end up being very different, from what they would have been if the UK had remained a member. Not least because UK withdrawal removes a major constituency of political influence and leadership; but also a major potential block in the decision-making system, particularly at the level of primary law reform.’

In his overall conclusion, Professor Dougan observed that while the ‘29th March 2017 may well be celebrated by the leading Leave campaigners and their zealous disciples as an historic victory, we should see it as the date when two important tasks become even more urgent than before: 1) to ensure that the Leave campaigners are held responsible for the consequences of their own choices and actions, judged against their own promises and denials; and 2) to fight for the values we want our country to respect and represent, against the very different and in many respects much darker vision advocated, in large part, by exactly those same Leave campaigners – now to be seen in their true and complete colours.’

The full text of the Address is available here: Michael Dougan Transcript

The Distinguished Professorial Address was closed by Raymond McDowell, Associate Dean of the Faculty of Business and Law.