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Law Teacher of the Year Award

Attracting the best talent.

Lydia Bleasdale of the University of Leeds, and outgoing Law Teacher of the Year handed over the crown to Sabrina Germain of City, University of London at the end of the Celebrating Excellence in Law Teaching conference held on Thursday 27 June at Cheltenham racecourse.

Sabrina commented: "I'd like to thank my students for motivating me to be the lecturer that I am. I thank them for challenging me every time I enter a classroom."

Our warmest congratulation to all the finalists, and our thanks to their nominators, students, colleagues and heads of department who facilitated the judging visits. Our thanks also to all those who put nominations forward for this year’s award.

Entries for Law Teacher of the Year 2020 will open here at the start of the new academic year.

The candidates were:

  • Neil Allen – The University of Manchester
  • Jane Bryan – University of Warwick
  • Sabrina Germain – City, University of London
  • Victoria Ridler – Birkbeck College, University of London
  • Lucy Yeatman – The University of Liverpool

Read their profiles below for more information on each finalist:

ExpandCloseNeil Allen

N_Allen_LTOTY19Neil is a Senior Lecturer teaching advocacy and mental health law to undergraduate and postgraduate students at the University of Manchester where he is Clinical Lead of the Legal Advice Centre. He also practises as a Barrister at 39 Essex Chambers in the Court of Protection.

“I am simply lucky to be doing what I love: teaching, writing, training, and advocating in mental health, capacity and human rights law.”

Neil was nominated by a student and colleague, who paid tribute to his enthusiasm, contemporary and supportive approach and commitment to student development.

Neil’s lectures and workshops are the result of ‘considerable preparation, effort and passion’ and he has worked hard to create a supportive and encouraging environment.  Students praise the advocacy workshops where everybody is given the opportunity to practise, receive feedback and be self-reflective. This in turn leads to an increase in their self-confidence.

As well as taking time in workshops to support students and encourage collaboration, Neil has worked with students aspiring to a career at the Bar by organising talks from judges, mock trials, mooting competitions and networking events.  His willingness to take the time to encourage, support and offer advice to students wishing to pursue a career at the Bar is appreciated.

His nomination describes him as ‘compassionate, and dedicated’; evidenced by his involvement in the Legal Advice Centre; his capacity as a practising Barrister; and the creation of the Dementia Law Clinic which is being rolled out nationally.

“He brings a really great and broad perspective to cases thanks to his academic background. He has an excellent technical understanding of the Mental Capacity Act and community care law, and he is very good at dealing with both lay and professional clients.” Chambers & Partners

Neil has appeared in the Supreme Court on detailed points of law and is equally adept at turning his hand to talk with non-legal audiences. His training on mental health and capacity law across the country to health and social services authorities has generated considerable interest at the University.

ExpandCloseJane Bryan

J_Bryan_LTOTY19Jane is an Associate Professor at the University of Warwick teaching law of property relations and medical law, previously also teaching law on screen and trusts law.

“I see my role as sharing my passion for learning and encouraging students to experience the thrill of exploring their own scholarly interests.”

Jane was nominated by two colleagues in an entry that highlighted the fact that many initiatives she has been involved with have been nominated for university awards, and rolled out across the institution, or used to shaped wider university policy.

Jane uses a range of teaching techniques to help students find the ‘lifelong thrill in the discovery of new knowledge’ and sees her students ‘very much as partners in their teaching and learning’. Jane takes a reflective and evaluative approach to her teaching, being guided by student feedback as to what works, and what doesn’t; taking care to ensure all students are motivated and enabled to succeed.

One example of this is the WLS Scholarship Development Programme set up to improve student experience of those who are struggling. The programme ‘takes an holistic approach to support with equal focus on academic skills, wellbeing support and careers guidance’.  Jane co-ordinates experts and speakers who create and deliver workshops and online resources, and provide one-to-one support to students to help them reach their full potential. Jane has shared her SDP ‘playbook’ institutionally and nationally (RAISE conference 2018). 

Jane is committed to what her nomination described as ‘innovative open space, performed-based, student-led learning outside the classroom’ for which she has won an award. Examples include trips to the local Magistrates’ and Crown Courts, and working with a local theatre group to involve students and staff as both participants in and observers of dramatic trial reconstructions. The drama continues back on campus as puppets and props are regularly brought in as co-participants in her lectures.

Jane regularly receives student evaluations of 5/5 for approachability and was the winner of the ‘Personal Tutor of the Year’ category in the inaugural student-run WLS Staff Awards 2018, as well as being nominated for a slew of law school and institutional teaching awards.


ExpandCloseSabrina Germain

S_Germain_LTOTY19Sabrina is a Senior Lecturer at City Law School, University of London teaching medical and tort law.

“I believe law teachers should provide students with appropriate platforms to voice their interests and opinions in order to cultivate critical thinking.”

Two colleagues nominated Sabrina in an entry that highlighted her student-centered approach to teaching. They noted that the seemingly small things Sabrina does can have a large impact on student experience. Things like learning students’ names so she can address them personally, using a variety of techniques to interact with them even in a large space, and demonstrating how elements of their personality will have a bearing on their analysis of controversial areas of medical law.

Sabrina has designed and delivers a research-informed and intellectually challenging undergraduate module in medical law and bioethics. Her sponsors pay tribute to her ‘passion and enthusiasm’ for the topic which transforms the classroom into a stimulating and dynamic environment.

By using technology to anonymously survey the room on controversial issues such as minors’ rights to assisted suicide, or personal responsibility in health care rationing, Sabrina aims to unpack the stereotypical responses to these issues and guide students towards a more ‘critical and inclusive approach’.

Sabrina’s commitment to her students continues beyond the classroom where she is involved with extra-curricular activities, including preparation of students to compete in the Leicester Medical Law Mooting Competition. She maintains a close relationship with her students and has used her experience as an international transactional lawyer to provide career advice on pathways to international law firms and international organisations.

Sabrina’s role as an active member of the Health Research Authority ethic committee informs many aspects of her undergraduate teaching, and her interaction with graduate students conducting studies involving human subjects. Prior to joining City Sabrina was part of the Cornell Prison Education Program involving teaching inmates in a US maximum security prison. Drawing on this experience she has been able to ‘cultivate greater understanding of inclusive teaching methods’ and adopt teaching styles that are most appropriate to students from diverse backgrounds.

ExpandCloseVictoria Ridler

V_Ridler_LTOTY19Victoria is an LLB Director, and Lecturer at Birkbeck College, University of London teaching contract law and constitutional and administrative law.

“My teaching approach is responsive… I am always learning through teaching and learning from my students.”

Victoria’s colleague and Dean opened her nomination by calling her ‘one of the unsung heroes of Birkbeck’ going on to praise her ‘initiative, dedication and extreme capability as a law teacher’.

The accessibility and skills-focused nature of her teaching boosts the confidence of students, which is important particularly as many are returning to education after decades. Victoria’s teaching approach, involving close readings of judgments in lectures, allows students to go from the big picture to the fine details without feeling lost.

Victoria has introduced a new course to the LLB curriculum; co-taught with a legal practice specialist; it’s called Legal Argument and Language in Law, and gives students a chance to pick apart the language of judgments, analysing them for structure, rhetorical techniques and intertextual references: key skills in virtually any profession.

One way in which Victoria’s student-focused approach is exemplified is through her willingness to have one-to-one meetings on a scale not managed by other convenors. It is appreciated by her students who ‘find her easy to talk to and feel supported and listened to’.

Outside the classroom, Victoria has ‘paved the way for good practice around assessment feedback’. Typically, students don’t receive much feedback on exams, however, Victoria publishes an extensive written analysis (typically around seven pages) of the assessment for all students to view, and has done for several years.

Her sponsors highlight how Victoria has constantly pushed the law faculty to think critically about assessments; regularly presenting her ideas, and holding a teaching workshop last year.

Victoria was instrumental in developing a research outlet for postgraduate students, co-ordinating and hosting the first London Conference on Critical Thought; several years on this is now a successful annual conference.

ExpandCloseLucy Yeatman

L_Yeatman_LTOTY19Lucy is a Senior Lecturer teaching clinical legal skills and family law at the University of Liverpool.

“I believe that active learning is necessary and that I need to help the students to process information and ideas to understand the complexity of the law.”

Lucy’s colleagues put forward a nomination that drew attention to the fact that Lucy has high expectations for her students but is constructive and supportive in a way that builds their resilience and self-belief.

In the two years since joining the University of Liverpool Lucy has ‘transformed the delivery of Law Clinic modules based on her experience and knowledge of good teaching practice’.  All learning on the module is experiential and uses an enquiry based approach.  By structuring the Law Clinic module around collaborative student law firms Lucy aims to give students a truly authentic learning experience; learning through active participation in client work.

The unique and award-winning Family Court Project run by Lucy does throw students in at the deep end – as they have to meet with litigants in the corridor of Liverpool Family Court, explain the service and take initial instructions – but once at court they step up and overcome any anxiety. Students report a growth in confidence and real sense of responsibility.

Lucy’s support for students is also evident in the Law Extra initiative she runs. The series of talks from external speakers aims to inspire and encourage students to think creatively about job opportunities when they graduate.  Last year 24 talks were attended by over 500 students, with many given the opportunity to join the speakers for lunch and build networks and social confidence.

Lucy’s commitment has been recognised with her joint win in November 2018 of the University of Liverpool award for Lecturer of the Year for research connected teaching. 

Her sponsors also highlight Lucy’s work outside the university, through her presentations at academic conferences, committees, and her role as co-chair of the Clinical Legal Education Organisation (CLEO) where she plans an annual programme of workshops and conferences in partnership with universities around the country.