University of Stirling Law Society: Adapting to uni life during COVID-19

Written by Rachel Swan, BA (Hons) English Studies and Psychology student at the University of Stirling.

With COVID-19 continuing to have an impact on our daily lives, the University of Stirling’s clubs and societies have been finding ways to adapt to the new environment and continue to engage with and support their members.

The Stirling Law Society has been positively brimming with creativity and ideas, with fundraisers in conjunction with career-building events their focus over the last few months, and subsequent months to follow.

Society President Euan Stainbank, and Head of Fundraising Nadine Salem spoke about their successful fundraisers, how the Law Society at Stirling is showing record numbers of engagement and sign ups, and the notion of giving back to the community and the humanitarian outreach within the Society, articulating the commitment, motivation, and empathy they perceive to be at the heart of their society during this difficult time.

The Law Society had two separate fundraisers, each linked to its own respective event for members, over the last month and a half. The combination of career-building, networking and skills-improving events, and fundraising has proven to be incredibly successful for the Law Society, with donations exceeding both fundraising targets, and in many ways their own expectations.

Their first event was the Legal Tech Conference on September 11th, a networking event for law students and a major opportunity to connect with and learn from industry experts. The event hosted a large pool of lawyers, academics and law students to give presentations on the area.

The Law Society saw over 50 signups for this event, which both Euan and Nadine expressed great happiness for, saying that those were impressive numbers as far as event sign up goes.

The event was tied to a fundraiser for SAMH (Scottish Association for Mental Health) which had a fundraising target of £250, which they exceeded with a final total of £270 for the mental health organisation.

Euan and Nadine were initially very surprised that the target had been both met, and exceeded.

They expressed a desire to fundraise for charities and organisations that they perceived to be essential to the wider community, linking the Law Society with humanitarian and community ventures that members could be proud to get behind, and both hope it will continue into their future fundraising endeavours.

SAMH was chosen as their first fundraiser due to the importance of mental health within society, and positive personal dealings members had with the organisation in the past for their own mental health concerns.

Euan and Nadine expressed a perception that their current committee is enthused, motivated, and cares deeply for the community especially given the circumstances globally with COVID-19; quite simply they are antsy to get behind a good cause and contribute, while offering diverse and career-orientated events to their members.

The second event the Law Society offered to students and members alike was the Future Trainee event, organised by Social Secretary Claire Welsh and Vice President Neil Brannigan, which consisted of a two-part structure.

Girl on her laptop, sat at table.
The Future Trainee event consisted of two parts: a Commercial Awareness webinar and a discussion around the “O-Shaped Lawyer Programme”.

The first part consisted of a Commercial Awareness webinar with Denis Viskovich (a former investment bank lawyer), Founder and CEO of BIUCAC (British Inter University Commercial Awareness Competition) to which the Stirling University Law Society has signed up to be a part of.

Mr Viskovich firstly presented on the necessity and elements of commercial awareness for budding lawyers before laying out competition details. The second part was comprised of Neil Campbell, managing legal council at RBS, discussing the ‘O-Shaped Lawyer Programme’ and what it entailed, with opportunities for students to ask real-time questions and receive direct answers to these queries.

The BIUCAC is a competition specifically for non-Russell Group Universities due to the hyper focus that Russell Group Universities generally have on them in relation to law, offering students from somewhat overlooked Universities to take central stage.

Over the course of five rounds, students will be tested on key topics and elements integral to commercial awareness, that any City solicitor should understand, from the FTSE 100 to worldwide economic global affairs and essential business concepts.

“This knowledge will help you understand the commercial environment of law firms and their clients. Learning about businesses will allow you to present yourself with a better understanding of commercial awareness at an interview,” suggests the official webpage for the competition.

This is an invaluable competition opportunity for law students, and illustrates the commitment that Stirling University’s Law Society has for bringing potentially career-changing ventures to Stirling students. Their events provide skills, insights, and real opportunities to participants while working towards fundraising for a good cause.

dyslexia awareness week
The Law Society’s online events have enabled students to develop new skills and insights.

The society’s committee has aimed to produce and participate in collaborative, networking and career-help events in conjunction with law firms and lawyers to offer the most diverse smorgasbord of help and assistance to its members and law students alike.

Attached to the Future Trainee event was a fundraiser for Strathcarron Hospice, which again exceeded the target the Law Society were aiming for. The society managed to raise £272 out of it’s £250 target for the charity.

Euan and Nadine gave further insight into their decision to chose Strathcarron Hospice, and inferred that their fundraisers are going so well as a result of the community understanding and agreeing with the direction of their choices during this difficult and unprecedented time.

They articulated that Strathcarron Hospice, due to its purpose of providing individuals dignity and comfort for those in the final stages of their life, needs community help, especially during COVID-19 struggles, to continue to provide this service to the community.

“University of Stirling Law Society wants to raise money to make sure that we continue to have a warm, caring and necessary service available to everyone who is in need of it in the Forth Valley.

If you have attended our Future Trainee Event today, please consider giving any amount that you think appropriate for a very worthy and vital place,” a statement on the society’s official fundraising page read.

The blend of fantastic career-building events and fundraising for a worthy cause seems to be incredibly successful for the Society, with plans to continue for as long as possible.

Their next fundraising event will be for Shelter Scotland, another charity that has been invaluable especially during the pandemic period, assisting individuals with housing and support, and again highlights the importance of finding charities that are directly supporting individuals during COVID time especially that may be struggling; championing a relevant and worthwhile cause is essential for Law Society Committee members.

The Law Society has certainly risen to the challenge of online-only events, adapting successfully from face-to-face interaction to remote online interaction.

Man typing on laptop
Online-only events have proven incredibly successful for the Law Society.

In many ways, President Euan Stainbank perceives this as a positive for the Law Society.

He expressed that many law events are held at particular Universities, hotels, or other function buildings that can pose a travel hindrance on students, and perceives a certain advantage for students that access to these events is easier.

He also mused on the ease of which speakers can be contacted and added to events, suggesting that online-only events rightly even the playing field for many students regardless of their geographical location, and offer opportunities that before may have been more difficult to access.

Nadine Salem echoed these advantages, speaking with positivity regarding the ease of getting certain speakers involved in comparison to previous in-person events, but laments slightly on the ease of rolling out of bed with regards to preparation.

The Law Society is experiencing record sign-up numbers, and a massive surge of engagement in its first and second year members, much to the delight of the Committee.

Many events and new initiatives are being taken up by students, including Academic Co-ordinator Jedd France’s upcoming podcasts on Commercial Awareness, and Magen McNulty and Kyle Menzies moot school launch.

Man smiling by microphones
New initiatives being taken up by students include a range of upcoming podcasts.

They hope to build up to competitions in the simulated court-room events, and build on the confidence and experience of law students in a professional setting, increasing their public speaking, presentation, and argumentative skills.

The society’s next major planned event was the Shepherd & Wedderburn Career Insight for BAME Law Students, specifically aimed at increasing diversity in law, which is often perceived as one of the last bastions for distinctly white and male individuals. Ten spots were open to Stirling students exclusively, to be taken through corporate practice.

It focused on presentation and prep for interviews, and insights into the application process to increase the diversity present at this law firm: further invaluable career opportunities presented to students via the Law Society.

Euan Stainbank illustrated the future landscape of the Law Society’s planned events, and commented on their successful fundraising ventures:

“The Law Society has always been a place of great value to LLB students, BA students and other students of the law. I’m glad that we have fought so hard to not only maintain that place in our students lives during COVID-19 but tangibly improved upon it.

“We hope that our rapid roll out of events will continue long into the semester and that people can feel like we are adding that little bit extra to their experience, degree and understanding of the career opportunities that can be gained from a career in law.

“We have been glad to adapt so well to this very bewildering set of circumstances to find ourselves in but hopefully we can provide value not only to our members but those in our community who find themselves struggling at this time. Community comes first.”

Head of Fundraising Nadine Salem said:

“I’ve been really happy with the fantastic amount the Law Society has raised for both charities and really grateful for all the contributions. I’m very hopeful we’ll be able to reach our targets again in future events!” 

If you’re interested in joining the University of Stirling Law Society visit their website to find out more:

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