iLINC-ing up in Amsterdam

Having erroneously joined the fast track queue before heading through security (I know, I know. Don’t worry I got a well deserved stare of disapproval from everyone in the main queue), I found myself waiting in Newcastle Airport’s departure lounge a good hour and a half before my flight to Amsterdam. The perils of not reading signs properly.

Sat quietly, staring out of the window at the dense fog, I pondered (a) whether I would make it to Amsterdam to meet with my fellow iLINC network members, and (b) what I might end up writing about when I got back. Sitting here now, I do not know how I am going to be able to write a post that will sufficiently cover all of the innovative and inspirational events, discussions, meetings, live link-ups, demos, and presentations that took place in the 24 hours we were together in the Netherlands. In order to do that, I suspect it would take another 24 hours to write! So instead, let me give you a flavour of what happened at the second iLINC Best Practice Sharing Event 30-31 October 2014.

At the FreedomLab

Our first day was spent at the Freedom Lab, opposite Amsterdam Zoo. The FreedomLab is a beautiful open space which is very much suited for creative activities. It has gorgeous high wooden ceilings and has white board walls for mind mapping and writing messages. I also loved the chairs!

The FreedomLab houses The Clinic, which provides specialised legal advice in the areas of Technology, Media and Communications. The Clinic is run by University of Amsterdam law students – they research and deliver the advice to entrepreneurs and startups. Each week they have lunch at a law firm where they are able to discuss their cases and obtain guidance. Project manager Veronic Sijstermans said The Clinic had become the first port of call for Amsterdam startups and it wasn’t difficult to see why. The students told us of the work that they did; advising on intellectual property, e-commerce, freedom of information, telecom law, and computer crime. Dirk Henderickx (Chairman of The Clinic) spoke with enthusiasm about why he wanted practical experience of the law. It was fascinating to hear that he felt more motivated to “get into his [law text] books and study even harder” when he had a client with an issue that he needed to find an answer for. All of the students agreed that clinical work was heavier in terms of workload compared to traditional study but that it was, as they said, “an investment” as they got a lot in return for the work they put in. That resonated strongly with me. It’s often what my students tell me during (and after) their time in the Student Law Office.

Later that afternoon, we heard from startups that The Clinic had helped – Braingineers and 3D Hubs – two businesses at the cutting edge of new technology which will change the way we work, think and do.

It would be remiss of a group that is looking to assist startups in the ICT community not to make use of tech advances. We did that in spades when we linked up live on screen(s) with students from Brooklyn Law Incubator & Policy Clinic, Professor Tony Lipino from EShipLaw and Dazza Greenwood of the MIT Media Lab. Being able to watch Dazza take “us” (via his computer) out into what looked like a park was fantastic! Here I was: from the North East of England, to the Netherlands and  spending some time along the way in the United States. Again, the students really impressed me. Their enthusiasm was infectious, their knowledge and dedication to their work humbling.

At the Law Faculty, University of Amsterdam

The next day we were welcomed to the Law Faculty. There we heard from Core Network representatives working on the four work packages relating to the iLINC project: start ups and their legal requirements, delivering clinic-based legal services to start ups, linking professional legal service delivery with learning programmes and presenting the prototype of the iLINC portal. During those sessions the questions that circle clinical legal education came up to the surface again: “what do we do about assessment? should we assess at all? should it be pass/fail or graded? which students should be involved? how about workload? how about supervision?” One of the concerns that a number of the members raised was in relation to the local bar. It’s easy to forget how lucky we are in our clinic to have such strong relations with law firms, who often give their time pro bono to assist with projects, partner with us on initiatives such as Legal Advice Byker and refer clients and cases to us. In some jurisdictions, the use of students to provide free legal advice could be seen to be a threat to lawyers. This can be a barrier to setting up clinical projects, as can funding and the cost of administering a clinic.

Patrick Cahill, qLegal, and Elaine Campbell, Northumbria University
Patrick Cahill, qLegal, and Elaine Campbell (me!), Northumbria University at iLINC, Amsterdam

This is one of the joys of iLINC. It’s a place where those who run law school clinics for businesses and those who want to develop those clinics can come together and discuss issues in a lively yet immensely collegial manner. I’m getting to know my fellow iLINC members more and more and it was great to catch up with those I met in London – such as Dr Tibor Fuzy (University of Pecs) & Professor Santiago Cavanillas (University of the Balearics Isles) and new faces, such as Dr Darius Whelan (University of Cork). I’ve been lucky enough to receive invites to visit partner universities and I know some of the members are hoping to come to the UK and visit the Student Law Office and other clinics in the future. I would be delighted to welcome them.  Patrick and I also got the chance to catch up, and, true to form, during the iLINC dinner managed to come up with at least five ideas for articles and conference papers!

Roll on the third Best Practice Sharing Event!

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