So, in terms of the responsibilities of the presidency, obviously there are meetings to attend; we also know about the Annual Conference. What else have you been up to?
“Well, we have a recognition of legal scholarship. So, for example, at the conference, we award the Peter Birks Prizes for Outstanding Legal Scholarship. So, one of the things that the President does is chair the committee that reads all of these books and makes a decision about the winners.
“And then we interface. As a learned society, we’re in consultation with the professional bodies, for example, over the various requirements to become a solicitor or to become a barrister. There have been major changes, as you may know, about how a person becomes a solicitor and the SLS is involved in consultations like these.
“Sometimes the consultations are also about various government policies and directions. So, for example, things like the right of judicial review. The government has been interested in changing the process of judicial review. And so because we have experts in all these different fields, we will coordinate a response and a statement.
“As President, you become the person who interfaces with various government bodies when they have things that deal with law, or academic scholarship and law. So, for example, a body like the Judicial Appointments Commission, we would liaise with them about how a person might become a judge if they were a legal academic. How can we promote that amongst our membership? How
“It's a very sort outward-looking role as President, so when Ukraine was invaded by Russia, for example, we also looked at what we could we do to assist Ukrainians and also Russian dissidents.”
Going back to your theme of ‘connections’, you have identified a large number of groups that you might connect with there. Was there a kind of ‘guiding light’ in terms of what you were trying to achieve through these connections? Is the focus on developing legal scholarship? How would you characterise it?
“Well, I would say it is developing legal scholarship, which is both the teaching of law and also legal research. The Society is a charity and its purpose is the advancement of legal education.
“I'm particularly concerned for younger scholars, actually. I've had the advantage of working with the Erasmus programme and other systems for several decades and I have my own connections to other bodies, but younger people, of course, don't have that.”
So, for those young scholars who are looking for ways they could make connections, particularly internationally connections, what would you suggest?
“Well, what I'm hoping to do with the Society is to have events with other learned societies where we can bring people together, physically. We might invite them to our conference, go to their conferences, and have symposia on topics of mutual interest that we could explore from different perspectives.
“In other cases, where the societies are farther away, we can think of ways to meet online. We are also thinking of setting up a system where somebody can write in and say something like, ‘I'm interested in child custody issues in the case of divorce, how does your jurisdiction deal with this?’ We could match scholars up. In some instances, maybe nothing would come of it, but in some of them, it might lead to a rewarding and fruitful collaboration.
“But, going back to your question about young scholars, one thing we can all also do is contact people, you know, more or less out of the blue.
“I think the Internet can segregate us - you read something online and then an algorithm only sends you similar things – but the internet can also facilitate meetings. So I would encourage young scholars to reach out and make those connections.”