After discussing with schoolchildren in Yorkshire whether Goldilocks was guilty of theft and other offences, solicitor-general Robert Buckland says he would like to see more solicitors become involved in public legal education.
The South Swindon MP, a door tenant at 23 Essex Street Chambers in London, told the Gazette: ‘The great thing about public legal education, particularly with busy legal practitioners’ jobs, is that this is quite a straightforward way to get involved in the pro bono community. Rather than asking a property lawyer to specialise suddenly in family-related disputes, it allows lawyers to take their own skills and experience into the classroom.’
Recalling his days as a busy criminal legal aid practitioner in South Wales, Buckland said he found talking to students was an effective use of his spare time. ‘I felt it was important to make a difference. It’s all about teaching young people about their rights and responsibilities,’ he said.
Last month Buckland travelled to Yorkshire to teach schoolchildren about the law, and their basic civil and criminal rights. He also visited students at BPP University Law School in Leeds.
Buckland said he is struck ‘by the number of young people who get into the sort of legal tangles that, with a little bit of knowledge, could essentially be avoided’. He pointed to the need to understand that by owning a smartphone, they had entered into some form of legal relationship with the provider and needed to understand, for instance, who owns the music they download or the apps they have.
Social media communications were another important issue, Buckland said, noting the dangers of becoming a victim of criminal or unacceptable behaviour, or indeed the perpetrator. ‘There are so many relevant scenarios for young people,’ he said. ‘Public legal education is necessary to help them understand an increasingly complex world.’