Community engagement, outreach and education.

Our founding principles provide that student members should not only advise and represent those with legal issues, but that they should also work to empower the community by assisting and/or providing the knowledge and skills necessary to reduce the likelihood of a legal issue occurring in the first place.

We believe this dual approach is the way to minimise the access to justice problem that exists in North East Scotland. 

Both independently and in collaboration with other established community groups and charities, we provide information and practical assistance on a range of subjects. Some of our current projects and initiatives are below.

Ambassadors Project

This innovative programme is designed to help secondary school pupils who are considering studying Law at university. We provide information and support, whilst addressing any worries or concerns. The programme, generously funded by Pinsent Masons, also introduces students from non-traditional backgrounds to lawyers (and law students) who were previously pupils at their school.

Grampian Women's Aid

Grampian Women’s Aid provides accommodation and assistance to women and families who have been subjected to domestic abuse. We support Grampian Women's Aid by training their staff on the law as it relates to the women who use their services. Our programme also tracks the development of relevant law and provides updates to the charity – ensuring that they always have access to accurate, up-to-date information which can be passed on to their service users. 

Prisons Project

Since 2010 the Prison's project has aimed to bridge the gap between liberation and reintegration back into the community; a stage in the offending cycle where offenders are particularly susceptible to the social pressures which often lead them to relapse into criminal behaviour. Equipping prisoners with the skills, knowledge and confidence to successfully re-enter the workplace is at the forefront of our specifically tailored, practical employability skills workshops. These workshops, cover 3 key areas – the CV, Disclosure of Convictions under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 and Interview Skills.

The Prison Project has also created a link with Aberdeen Forward’s ‘Roots and Shoots’ Rehabilitation Programme. The Prison Project has been very successful, and has been praised both by participants and by prison staff.  Audrey Mooney, the Governor of HMP Aberdeen, has been vocal in her support of the programme and, in particular, its positive effect on the mindset of prisoners who are enrolled on our programme,

“Lack of knowledge can often lead to missed opportunities and a subsequent return to criminal behaviour. It is exciting that we have been selected to be part of this innovative and worthwhile initiative.”

In the Annual Lectures of 2015 and 2016, Prisons was awarded the CMS Cameron McKenna Award for The Best Project.

School's Programme

The Schools Programme is one of the original community outreach projects that started in 2009. The main aim of the Schools Project is to make the law accessible to young people – through discussing the law as it affects them, the structure of the legal system and by giving an insight into how the courts operate. 

Within primary schools, this is achieved by way of our specially designed "trial day". This workshop provides pupils with an opportunity to learn about the function and set-up of the court, the roles of prosecutors, the defence and basic rules of evidence. The day culminates in the school pupils being assigned roles within a mock trial and presenting evidence to a jury.

Secondary school classes are tailored to fit the curriculum. Students have previously assisted in teaching Modern Studies at Higher and Advanced Higher level. More general presentations and workshops of a "Street Law" nature are available. Details (including a list of our current topics) are available on request. 

Our History 

The Aberdeen Law Project is the first student-founded law project in Scotland.

We are extremely proud to be the first British law project to be founded, led and operated by students. Established in 2009, by then student Ryan Whelan, The Aberdeen Law Project ("ALP") is now one of the largest law projects in the UK. 

Ryan Whelan discusses the roots of the Aberdeen Law Project

(Video credit: University of Aberdeen)

Ryan was acutely aware of the North East’s access to justice gap.  Convinced that law students know more law than they think, and can be of greater assistance than they might believe, he was passionately of the view that students could play a valuable role in reducing the access to justice gap. He thought it was a win-win: students could obtain practical experience and the community could gain advice and representation. The question was “how?” 

What was lacking was a vehicle through which students could put their skills to use for the good of the community. With encouragement from a small group of other students, Professor Margaret Ross, Professor Roderick Paisley and Mr Greg Gordon, a company was formed and ALP born. 

The enthusiasm for the law project was beyond all expectation. Ryan put out a call for student volunteers. He expected a handful to respond. Not so. Over 100 volunteered. Next, Ryan turned to the community. They were the people best placed to know if and how such a resource could help. The enthusiasm was equally overwhelming. It was a resounding yes from those in the justice gap. Last came the profession. The student team approached numerous lawyers in an effort to obtain training and support. The response was remarkable; more offers were received than could be taken advantage of. 

We’re not just different in terms of how we came to be; we’re different in terms of what we do and how we do it. Some of what makes us different: 

  • We operate through an independent company called Casus Omissus, which means gap in the law. We are not part of The University of Aberdeen, but we operate in partnership with it.
  • We are a law project, not a law clinic. This is both deliberate and important. Our clinical dimension is where we provide advice and representation. It is vital, but it is just one part of what we do. The other part, the larger part, involves engaging, educating and empowering the community. Our founding principles are clear: ALP should work to reduce the access to justice problem, not just “fire-fight” existing issues. 

  • We are integrated with the legal profession to an extent that is unprecedented. Lawyers from across the world train, mentor, supervise and donate to ALP.  It’s remarkable and greatly appreciated.    

In its first year of operation ALP met with numerous organisations and individuals. We even made international headlines. Since then it’s been more of the same. Every year we have gone on to do more and more. Highlights include devising and implementing a host of innovative education programmes, appearing before the Scottish Parliament and winning cases that have become reported decisions. As of January 2015, ALP students have met with approximately 1,000 potential clients and represented over 200. But this is only the beginning. We have more people to help, more boundaries to push. 

If you can help us or we can help you, please do get in touch.