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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.


Image of Roland Fletcher

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 work-place. 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 work-place.

Image of Andrew Gilbert

Dr Andrew Gilbert

Andrew is a Senior Lecturer in The Open University’s 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. He is currently investigating – with Jessica Giles – the use of extra-curricular activities by law students and alumni. Andrew’s other main interest is the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE). He has blogged on law schools' responses to the SQE and he leads the OU Law School’s SQE curriculum development work. In 2020, Andrew was elected to serve on the Executive Committee of the Association of Law Teachers.

Image of Jessica Giles

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. 

Image of Neil Graffin

Dr Neil Graffin

Lecturer in International Law. Neil is interested in education and training within the legal profession. He is currently undertaking research on the ethical issues presented when lawyers are working with asylum claimants with complex mental health needs. The research will assess whether lawyers are adequately trained and supported within the workplace.

Image of Liz Hardie

Liz Hardie

Liz is a lecturer and Teaching Director of the Law School. She is a member of the Open Justice team and co-ordinates the mediation project, policy clinic and is one of the supervising solicitors in the law clinic. Liz is particularly interested in online learning, 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.

Image of Dr Clare Jones

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.

Image of Hugh McFaul

Hugh McFaul

Hugh is a founding member of The Open University Law School's Open Justice Centre, leading on public legal education issues. He has worked to develop a range of innovative community based experiential learning opportunities for OU students by developing partnerships with Citizens Advice, The Personal Support Unit, Young Citizens, Refugee Action and the St Giles Trust. He is particularly interested in harnessing the potential of online technologies to support the social justice agenda by increasing levels of public legal literacy and has utilised virtual reality technology to support the development of law student employability skills.

Image of Laura Noakes

Laura Noakes

Laura is a PhD student at the Open University. She has a First Class Honours degree in Law, and recently completed her MA in Historical Research at Birkbeck, University of London. Her area of interest is the relationship between the campaign for parliamentary votes for women and early female lawyers in the UK. More specifically, she is looking at this relationship in the context of two women: Chrystal Macmillan and Elsie Bowerman.

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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. 

Image of Anne Wesemann

Dr Anne Wesemann

Anne is a Senior Lecturer in Law with a particular interest in EU law. So far, this has been a compulsory subject to be taught in a UK law degree, but the relevance of EU law teaching within the UK is now being challenged as a result of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. Anne is looking at the role that EU law plays and the influence this particular subject area has as part of legal education in the UK. Domestic legal education is very inward looking and part of her argument is that the study of a unique international organisation and its laws furthers the understanding and reflection on the domestic legal system, which furthers reform and supports the rule of law.

In addition Anne is looking at the way Learning Outcomes are approached within legal education generally, and at the OU specifically, with a view to develop an approach that enhances the student experience when studying law and furthers their understanding of the transferable skills they are developing in the process.