The University of Warwick EVENT POSTPONED
Public legal education, in a more formal sense, has been a mainstay in some jurisdictions, while it is a relatively new area of focus in others. However, as a practice, it takes countless forms, and it can happen at multiple levels, from the grassroots, to NGOs, to the state, informally and formally, and it goes by many names. Broadly speaking, public legal education aims to build knowledge, confidence and skills to understand and deal with legal issues, as well as to empower individuals and communities to participate in political life and assert their rights. While the problem of knowledge of law has a long history, the contemporary English-speaking movement for public legal education can be traced to at least the 1960s, as part of a vibrant culture of community organising and autonomous action to share legal knowledge, and the emergence of neighbourhood law centres.
At a time when reliable information seems to come at a premium, misinformation abounds, and access to justice is an increasingly elusive goal, the tools, resources and strategies that inform public legal education are essential for equipping communities to navigate complex legal and political realities and to resist further entrenching disadvantage, oppression and marginalisation. However, the increasing demands for ‘self-help’ that have emerged in the context of austerity, significant cuts to publicly funded legal aid, as well as the marketisation and digitisation of legal services in the UK, operate on a very different register to the community organising of the 1960s, and potentially compromise the critical ethos that motivates much work in public legal education.