Law Student Colloquium and Brian Lenihan Memorial Address

Greek Symposium image.The fourth annual Law Student Colloquium will take place in the Graduates’ Memorial Building (map) and the Law School (map) Trinity College Dublin, on Saturday 4 February 2012.

The Colloquium is organised by law students for law students; it has been an enormous success over the past three years; and it has been made possible by the kind sponsorship of Allen & Overy and William Fry. For all enquiries please contact the organisers by email.

The centrepiece of the Colloquium will be the First Annual Brian Lenihan Memorial Address, which will take place at 6pm in the Graduates’ Memorial Building that evening. The Address has been organized by the Colloquium committee in order to mark Mr Lenihan’s substantial contribution to Irish public life, his longstanding connection to the Law School as a student, scholar, and lecturer, and his recent tragic death. It is envisaged that this will be the keynote event of the Colloquium from this year on.

This year’s Address is to be delivered by Judge Bryan McMahon, recently retired from the Irish High Court. The title of the address is ‘Judging‘ and in it Judge McMahon will discuss the craft of judging as well as the role of the judge in a modern democracy, and share with his audience insights accumulated during a varied career as an academic, practitioner, and judge. The event will be chaired by the former Attorney General of Ireland, Mr Paul Gallagher SC.

If you wish to attend, please contact the organisers by email.

Rethinking Law – Law Student Colloquium at TCD

Greek Symposium image.Are you a Law student, undergraduate or postgraduate? Would you like to present a short paper or give a presentation on a legal topic of your choice at a colloquium in Trinity College Dublin? If so, then the third annual Law Student Colloquium is for you. Kindly sponsored by Allen & Overy, it will take place in the Graduates’ Memorial Building, TCD (map) and the Law School, TCD (map), on Saturday 19 February 2011. Posts about the previous colloquia are here.

This conference brings together law students from Ireland and abroad to present papers on a wide variety of legal topics. The ethos of the Colloquium is one of re-thinking law. Papers which demonstrate originality, engage with current developments and challenge existing understandings of distinct legal issues are especially welcome.

Law students, both undergraduate and postgraduate, as well as researchers and recent graduates from all institutions, are invited to attend and participate. The Colloquium will consist of several panels on thematic areas of law with individual presentations of approximately fifteen minutes duration. An expert in the relevant area of law will chair each panel. There is some excellent advice here about the art of the conference paper; the article was written for US graduate students but it contains much that will be very helpful indeed for anyone interested in participating in the Colloquium. It will provide an excellent opportunity to explore current and future developments in law, to obtain feedback on your ideas and research, as well to experience presenting and participating at a law conference. There will be prizes for the best undergraduate presentations.

To submit an application to present a paper at the Colloquium, please use the online submission form before 3 December 2010 at 5pm. For answers to queries regarding submissions, please consult the FAQs, or email the Colloquium Committee. Finally, there are detailed regulations here (pdf).

It’s going to be interesting and lot of fun, honest! (And there’s a wine reception at the end). So, what are you waiting for? Fill in that form or send that email now! Indeed, it’s so much fun that even if you are not presenting a paper, you should turn up anyway and enjoy the papers and the fun. Attendance is free, but registration via email will be required.

Rethinking Law, Second Annual Law Student Colloquium at TCD

Colloquium call for papersAre you a Law student, undergraduate or postgraduate? Would you like to present a short paper or give a presentation on a legal topic of your choice at a colloquium at TCD on Saturday, 20 February 2010?

The second annual Law Student Colloquium, chaired by Mrs Justice Catherine McGuinness, President of the Law Reform Commission, will bring together law students to present and discuss their work under the general theme of Rethinking Law. Law students, both undergraduate and postgraduate, and researchers from all institutions, are invited to attend and participate. In a new and exciting development, there will be prizes for the best undergraduate papers.

For more information, check out the poster (pdf | jpg), visit the website, or send an email to the organisers as soon as possible. And, if you’re interested in participating, (of course you are, aren’t you?), please email a provisional title and a 400-500 word abstract of your proposed paper before 5pm, Friday 4 December 2009. Provide your name, educational status and institution in the e-mail, but provide the title and abstract in an attachment which should be anonymous.

The first event was a great success, and I’m sure that the second iteration will surpass it. So, go on, present your ideas on rethinking or challenging existing law, current understandings of the law, and received wisdom. It will be a lot of fun, as much for those who present the papers as for those of us whose preconceptions are challenged by the presentations.

Reminder: Rethinking Law – Law Student Colloquium at TCD on Saturday

Greek Symposium image.Are you a Law student, undergraduate or postgraduate? If so, you should come along to a colloquium in TCD next Saturday, 4 April 2009, from 11:00am, and hear other law students present short papers across the full range of the law. Full information about this exciting event is available here, and attendance is free, but you will need to register by email in advance. Hosted in the School of Law, Trinity College Dublin, the event has been made possible by the generous support of Allen & Overy and Matheson Ormsby Prentice. It’s going to be interesting and lot of fun (and there’s a wine reception at the end). So, what are you waiting for? Send that email now!

Rethinking Law – Law Student Colloquium at TCD

Greek Symposium image.Are you a Law student, undergraduate or postgraduate? Would you like to present a short paper or give a presentation on a legal topic of your choice at a colloquium at TCD on Saturday 4 April 2009?

Individual presentations will last 10-15 minutes. Prospective participants may consider presenting a paper on a topic in which they are personally interested or have conducted research for an essay or article. Whatever the topic, and reflecting the title Rethinking Law, proposals should challenge existing law or current understandings of law. For further information, including how to submit an abstract, visit the website or send an email to the organisers as soon as possible.

This is a wonderful idea. I love the fact that it is entirely general, soliciting contributions on all aspects of the law. Moreover, whilst there are now are now lots of outlets for postgraduates, this colloquium – uniquely, and excitingly – also solicits submissions from undergraduates. Indeed, it actively welcomes their (your) participation on the day, whether by presenting papers or as members of the audience. So, what are you waiting for? Send that email now!

Update: the deadline for submission of abstracts has been extended to 5:00pm on 16 February 2009, so send that email now!

McMahon on Judging

Mr Justice Bryan McMahon, via Listowel Writers' Week websiteI spent a lot of today at the Law Student Colloquium which I mentioned in my previous post; and it was a great deal of fun. The day culminated with the First Annual Brian Lenihan Memorial Address, delivered by former academic and retired judge Bryan McMahon (above left), on the topic of

    Judging.

He told us that a judge has a front row seat in the theatre of life; and, in his characteristically erudite and witty speech (citing all the great legal philosophers, including Groucho Marx, Maurice Chevalier, and Joe Duffy), he gave a wonderful review of the dramas, comedies and tragedies that have played out in his courtrooms. It was, he said, all very different from the jurisprudence of judging with which he was concerned as an academic, and yet he brought all his academic rigour to bear on the analysis of his twelve years on the bench, during which he said he sat in every county in Ireland.

The heart of his discourse was a discussion of judicial attributes. The essential traits include courtesy, patience, knowledge of the law, the ability to listen, the ability to make a decision, and the ability to give reasons for those decisions. Judges, he said, are paid not necessarily to be right but to make decisions. He went straight from practice to the bench without formal judicial training, but he said he received lots of good informal advice from his colleagues. The best, he said, was never to be rushed into a decision. It is the essence of judging to make decisions, and they have to be made with due care and proper speed, but, even so, they must not be rushed. I think that this is sound advice for life, not just for judging. Desirable judicial traits, he said, include wisdom, confidence, humour, and a good knowledge of the law (his emphasis; and he included jurisprudence in his enumeration).

He reminded us that, in every case, there are two sides, so judges’ decisions are never inevitable: there are at least two competing arguments, and often many possible alternative solutions. He welcomed the development of written decisions submissions* in High Court cases, but whilst he saw them as extremely helpful, he said that judges have to be careful not to let such submissions narrow their focus to just those two presented solutions.

He also reminded us that judges face different challenges in distinct kinds of case and in disparate areas of law. He gave three examples. First, the kind of discretion which a judge in a civil case has in determining a remedy such as a level of damages is very different from the kind of discretion which a judge in a criminal case has in determining a custodial sentence. Indeed, he said that he found criminal sentencing a profound responsibility and a matter of great difficulty. Second, he said that the judge’s role in jury trials is very different from non-jury trials. In such cases, the judge must be vigilant to maintain integrity of the jury – an onerous and increasingly difficult responsibility – and the judge must charge the jury properly. Third, he said that the skills of judging in family cases are different again. The procedure is often more relaxed, and there are a great many lay litigants. Here, the task of the judge is not one of attributing blame or focusing on the past. Instead, the judge must be mediator, educator persuader and broker as well as decision-maker. The relevant legislation provides a wide range of discretion, which allows the judge to look to both parties and children, and to look to future.

He concluded by calling into question the declaratory theory of judicial decision-making (which says that judges don’t make law, merely find and apply it). He said that judges make law all the time when making decisions on novel points and ambiguities. In open areas, judges are susceptible to three kinds influences. First, there environmental prejudices, reflecting a judge’s environment and background – these are inevitable, and for that reason ought not to be seen as problematic. Second, there are personal prejudices – these are unworthy, and judges seek to put them aside. Third, there are matters of personal intuition and emotion. Intuition, he said, is simply a sort-circuit application of experience. A judge, he said, neither cannot nor should not deny his or her true self, but rather must be self-aware.

He had said at the start of his presentation that subjectivity is not necessarily a bad perspective, and by his conclusion he had not only proved this, he had gone much further and demonstrated that it is a necessary perspective for good judicial decision-making. He argued that the story is everything and everything is a story; and he told us many good stories tonight. He argued that the power of narrative can be compelling; his narrative certainly was. He concluded that literature is unparallelled in providing insight into and experience of the full range of the human condition, and certainly provided a great insight into the full range of a judge’s decision-making.

It was a fitting tribute to Brian Lenihan, and it was an excellent conclusion to a wonderful day.

* Update: typo corrected on foot of comments below.