On the weekend of November 10 lawyers, students, and the social justice inclined will congregate for a conference in London. But RebLaw is not your typical legal conference. It is a place for anyone and everyone interested to come together to question the received wisdom of the powers that be and strive to utilise the law to pursue meaningful social change. Issues explored in the conference, such as homelessness, school exclusions, and violence against women are not purely legal issues, and it’s important to make sure that it isn’t only legal professionals who get to have their say.
RebLaw UK started a couple of years ago, inspired by the Yale law schools’ very own RebLaw conference. RebLaw UK has quickly grown into something big. Last year’s event sold out its 300 tickets in less than twelve hours, with more than 100 people on the waiting list. This year, capacity for the event is at 500. Find the full agenda for RebLaw 2018 here.
Adam Riley, Ellie Miles and Alice Whyte – all past and present students at The University of Law – have planned a full weekend of speakers, discussion groups, and exhibitions to fulfil attendants’ rebellious inclinations towards putting the world to rights.
There are already a lot of academic conferences that focus on issues relating to civil liberties and human rights, but they aren’t typically designed for public involvement. They can be prohibitively expensive to attend, with content that’s impenetrable for those without legal training, and that can be quite off-putting for students, activists and members of the community. RebLaw is designed specifically to not just be a conference for legal practitioners. The organisers want to encourage open discussion between people of varying backgrounds, expertise and perspectives, especially those with a stake in the issues on the table. It’s all about discussion and debate, not just lectures.
Given the popularity of last year’s event, the team welcomed an expansion of the conference to two days and have aimed at making it more accessible to more people. Finding more topics and speakers interested in getting involved was also an easy task. In fact, the difficulty came in trying to narrow it down to just 20 panels. After a lot of discussions with a range of incredible practitioners, the team have shortlisted what they consider to be some of the burning issues of social justice in the law in 2018.
With the addition of a second day comes the need of another keynote speaker for Sunday. This year will see Dr Leslie Thomas QC discussing ‘Poverty, Inequality and Justice’ on Saturday. Dr Thomas is a barrister at Garden Court and is ideally placed to tackle poverty, inequality and justice, especially considering his work championing the victims of the Grenfell Tower tragedy during the subsequent inquiry.
On Sunday Corey Stoughton, advocacy director of Liberty, will be kicking off the conference’s Brexit-centric sessions with an analysis on ‘Rights after Brexit’. Corey has been a staunch defender and promoter of civil liberties and human rights, having worked as senior counsel to the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights in the US Department of Justice under President Obama. As Liberty’s Advocacy Director, Corey leads the advocacy team and supervises legal, policy and campaigning work, making her well-versed in fighting for rights and freedoms in the UK.
Get on your Soapbox
This year also sees the introduction of a new opportunity for attendees to have their say on a topic of their choosing: The RebLaw Soapbox.
The premise is that you get 5 minutes to get on your soapbox and make your case for why a particular law should be changed.
Anyone with a Weekend or Sunday ticket is welcome to apply by submitting a short outline argument (maximum of 200 word) to firstname.lastname@example.org by midnight on 28 October.
Further details of the competition can be found in confirmation emails once a ticket has been bought.
RebLaw’s top picks
Ellie: “I’m excited about every panel at this year’s conference; there’s such a diverse range of topics to choose from. I’m particularly interested in sitting in on ‘#spycops: The future for the undercover policing inquiry’. I think it’s especially relevant after the recent revelations about the knowledge and complicity of managers in the inappropriate and exploitative behaviour of spycops.”
Alice: “I am particularly looking forward to hearing about intersectional inequality and the criminalisation of poverty. The variety of experiences on the panel should make for a really interesting discussion. I’m also intrigued to see what people will choose for the Soapbox!”
Adam: “Having drawn up the agenda for this year, I can honestly say that I don’t know how I’m going choose!”