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Creating justice entrepreneurs

Friday, 9 February 2018 12:42pm

Otago Summer School students swapped laptops for post it notes and colour pens today, as they pooled their brains to solve access to justice problems, during their Legal Practice Summer School paper.

Students brainstorm legal services webThe classroom buzzed with music and the exchange of ideas as 40 students gathered around proposed innovations to connect everyday people with the right lawyer. “They are applying design skills to tackle the big problems people face when searching for a good lawyer who can take their case”, explains lecturer Dr Bridgette Toy-Cronin. Having taught the students design thinking and collaboration skills over the previous days, she has now set them free to create a tool that could help thousands of New Zealanders every day.

“It’s been amazing, very interactive with lots of creative thinking from the students,” says Dr Toy-Cronin, who teachers another 40 students in Auckland as well as the Dunedin class, with her colleague from Otago’s Legal Issues Centre, Dr Bridget Irvine.

As well as tackling access to justice issues, the class examines the legal profession’s history and structure and, perhaps most importantly, how it works from a client perspective. While some students bring to the class their experience clerking in law firms, for others it's a chance to learn how the profession works beyond the classroom.

“We help the students decide what kind of lawyer they want to be—in the sense of what values they hold and how they would want to help their clients and society,” says Dr Toy-Cronin. This vision might be different from how they see the profession operating today, and it starts with some fresh thinking during their Summer School experience.

Yet when it comes to change, some might say that the profession and the justice system is a slow-moving behemoth. In the face of this challenge, Toy-Cronin strikes an optimistic note. “You can’t change it all at once, but you can work on the small things. It’s important to chip away at it.”

She has little doubt that change will come. “Today’s students can become justice entrepreneurs and create disruptive technologies that change the future of the profession.”