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The Futures of Legal Education and Practice

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This research cluster draws together several academics from within The Open University Law School who have an interest in the development and future directions of legal education and legal practice.

The title of the cluster reflects the diverse and evolving nature of legal education and the legal profession in the UK and beyond and the innovative and progressive work of its members.

Research topics covered within this cluster include:

  • the use and integration of learning theories
  • the role of emotion within legal education
  • the place of EU law within the curriculum
  • skills development within the law degree
  • the development of apprenticeship models of legal education
  • clinical legal education
  • training within the legal profession
  • the wellbeing of practitioners
  • ethical issues involved in all aspects of legal education and practice

The research cluster is also interested in assisting members of Open University staff in developing bids for scholarship, and supporting them in the dissemination and publication of their findings.


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Siobhan Cullen

Siobhan is a lecturer in the Open University Law School, a member of the Open Justice team and Athena Swan lead. Siobhan has an interest in equality and clinical legal education. In the previous institution where she worked, Siobhan co-led a national street law project and the funded REAL project ( Re-Imagining Experiential Learning in Law) each  of which were funded for €150,000 by the National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Ireland.

 Siobhan also led several funded Learning Enhancement Projects including Peer Mentoring, Mock Trial Training and the development of a Digital Badge in Reflective Practice in Teaching which is available open source at Reflective Practice in Teaching – Open Courses

She is currently working on research projects exploring public legal information to support the LGBT+ community and street law projects on international protection and migrant rights. Siobhan is currently a commissioner with Equality Commission Northern Ireland (ECNI), a Mental Health Tribunal Member and Chairperson of the local Women’s Centre where she lives in Ireland. 

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Sophie Doherty

Sophie is a Lecturer in Law at The Open University. Her research is interdisciplinary, drawing on literature and theory from Law and Art. Her research primarily explores feminist jurisprudence, sexual violence, and visual art. Extending her interest in Law and Art to Legal Education, Sophie is interested in developing creative learning methods within law-based modules. For her FHEA project, Sophie created a Visual Textbook for Tort Law students and undertook semi-structured interviews to analyse the reception of this innovative teaching tool. Sophie is interested in developing this resource further. Furthermore, Sophie has incorporated performance art, photography and installations into previous Jurisprudence and Criminal Law modules to teach key concepts. She is interested in continuing, and evaluating, the use of creative methods in Legal Education. 

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Carol Edwards 

Carol is a Senior Lecturer within the Law School. She joined the OU as an Associate Lecturer in 2015 and became a Student Experience Manager in 2018 before taking up the role of Assistant Head of Student Experience – Retention and Outcomes in 2023. She is a Senior Fellow of the HEA. Carol is also actively involved in research and scholarship relating to online teaching pedagogy and has presented and published on this area. She has a very keen interest in tackling student and staff isolation and is actively involved in a number of projects attempting to address this area. These include the online mentoring programme, The Belonging Project and Tutor CPD.

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Roland Fletcher

Senior Lecturer in Law. Roland has a number of research interests, one of which is the design of legal education and how learning takes place in the workplace. The traditional design of higher educational courses and the development of academic skills are not always compatible with vocational skills. His research examines the integration of skills which will be transferable into the working environment and will provide the required skills to compete in a global economy. This is the platform of his research that is developing the idea of learning through experiential learning and experience of learning within a framework of structured and unstructured, formal or informal, inside or outside the classroom. Whilst undertaking his research, Roland has developed and drawn upon various theorists who have focused on the design and implementation of experiential learning in the workplace.

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Dr Andrew Gilbert

Andrew is a Senior Lecturer in The Open University Law School. Andrew’s work uses insights from Bourdieu to examine ways in which legal education generally, and clinical legal education in particular, can develop social and cultural capital, promote social justice and enhance student employability. His chapter entitled ‘Capitalising on Clinical Legal Education: Insights from Bourdieu’ for a volume edited by Hugh McFaul and Omar Madhloom was published by Routledge in autumn 2021. He has recently investigated – with Jessica Giles – the use of extra-curricular activities by law students and alumni. Andrew leads the law school's Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) curriculum development work and he has blogged on why the SQE can't guarantee competent solicitors and law schools' responses to the SQE. He is also Deputy Director (Law) of SCiLAB, the Faculty's vibrant and growing research centre, and a member of the Executive Committee of the Association of Law Teachers.

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Jessica Giles

Lecturer in Law. Jessica has undertaken action research and published in the field of the scholarship of teaching and learning. Her specific interests are related to using online classrooms to enhance student learning and enhancing students' skills training. In 2016 she led her module team to win the Association of Law Teachers Stan Marsh Best Paper Prize for a co-authored paper on enhancing student performance through collaborative team working. This led to a successful application for Senior Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy via OpenPAD in Autumn 2016. Jessica is Scholarship Lead and Employability Lead for the Law School. She is an APPLAUD mentor. 

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Dr Neil Graffin

Senior Lecturer in Law. Neil’s research interests concern wellbeing in the law school and legal profession, including the impact of legal practitioners and processes where trauma is present. Neil is currently working on a project with the UK charity, LawCare, to develop online resources promoting psychologically healthy practices within the legal profession..

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Kevin Graham

Kevin is a Lecturer in Law and Student Experience Manager at the Open University. His current research interests are contracts, divisible obligations, and employment. With a background in public policy, Kevin’s previous research and published work has been focused on the law relating to additional needs and challenging behaviours in the health and social care sector. He is particularly interested in the use of creative theoretical underpinning to facilitate the development of employability skills through online learning. 

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Liz Hardie

Liz is a Senior Lecturer and Teaching Director of the Law School. She is a member of the Open Justice team and co-ordinates the policy clinic and is one of the supervising solicitors in the law clinic. Liz is also a member of the Law Society’s Digital Education Taskforce. Liz is particularly interested in online learning, developing online learning communities, clinical legal education and reflective practice.

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Kara Johnson

Kara is Deputy Teaching Director and Lecturer at The Open University Law School. Her research cuts across the disciplines of Education and Law focusing on how concepts of liminality and transformative education can provide educator-researchers with a better insight into the experiences of part time, adult learners. Future research directions will be to consider how digital pedagogies can be further utilised in the development of professional legal skills as well as further exploring professional identity and belonging amongst online law students. Kara’s work utilises online research methods to support empirical qualitative enquiry. She is Senior Fellow of Advance HE and a member of the Law Society’s Digital Education Taskforce.

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Dr Clare Jones 

Dr Clare Jones is a Senior Lecturer in Law. Her areas of interest are banking and finance law with focus on technologies and their interfacing regulations. Clare’s research portfolio looks at digital currencies, cybercrime as well as financial exclusion and the interplay with technology. Clare has a background in learning and teaching in virtual world environments and is interested in using virtual environments and game play in education.

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Andrew Maxfield

 Andrew Maxfield is a Lecturer and Student Experience Manager within the Open University Business and Law Schools. Andrew’s research interests include exploring student engagement, understanding online teaching pedagogy and supporting veterans in their studies. He tutors on LLB Law modules. Before joining the OU Andrew worked as a solicitor practising in family, property and charity law.   

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Kate Ritchie

Kate is a lecturer in law in the Open University Law School. She has many years’ experience teaching OU students and is aware of the additional demands and challenges which can impact on online distance learning students. She is involved in leading a peer mentoring project which aims to explore ways of enhancing the student experience and facilitating the development of online learning communities to reduce isolation and provide support. As a member of the Open Justice Centre she has an interest in clinical legal education and its intersection with social justice, reflected in her involvement in prison projects and the business law clinic. She has authored extensively on the OU’s new law degree during which she has included opportunities for immersive, experiential learning to develop students’ insights and understanding of legal practice and the relationship between skills and employability. She would like to investigate the potential for enhancing support for law firms and legal professionals in their continuing professional development, particularly in the use of technology in the changing legal landscape. She is a fellow of Advance HE.

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Francine Ryan

Francine is a Senior Lecturer in Law, co-director of the Open Justice Centre and Director of the Open Justice Law Clinic, an innovative online legal advice clinic providing quality fully insured legal advice to the general public. Francine is interested in the intersection between law and technology, and is working on research projects exploring the skills, attributes and capabilities law graduates require to transition into the future world of work. 

Allison Wolfreys

Allison is a Lecturer in Law at The Open University. She is interested in using creative and interdisciplinary approaches to online legal education. Researching applied storytelling techniques and character immersion learning, she recently designed and wrote an audio-drama used in the teaching of tort law.  As a family law specialist, she was the academic lead for the online mediation training resources developed for final year law students in the Open Justice centre. Drawing upon jazz and child psychology to teach mediation techniques, she has shared these methods with other clinical legal educators at an international conference.