Finance and Social Justice Project LAW5198
- Academic Session: 2022-23
- School: School of Law
- Credits: 20
- Level: Level 5 (SCQF level 11)
- Typically Offered: Semester 2
- Available to Visiting Students: No
- Available to Erasmus Students: No
Finance plays a central role in our economy: it is the key that unlocks almost any project you can think of. By enabling the development of businesses and the implementation of government policies, finance has the power to shape our world in an unparalleled way. For good and bad.
In recent years, the financial services industry has been subject to a growing ethical scrutiny. For example, we have learnt that banks are financing a large proportion of the fossil fuel projects that are aggravating the current climate emergency and that the levels of bank finance continue to grow despite the adoption of the landmark Paris Agreement in December 2015 (Rainforest Action Network, 2019). We have also learnt that some financial institutions are financing big agribusinesses who are depleting rainforests all around the world, thereby aggravating biodiversity loss, hindering access to water and accelerating the breakdown of our climate (Global Witness, 2019). We have also learnt that some financial institutions are even facing criminal investigations for their alleged complicity in crimes against humanity, torture and genocide (International Federation for Human Rights, 2019).
In this course, students will have the opportunity to explore how they, as lawyers, can contribute to promoting social justice in modern finance. They will do so by developing a legal strategy to address a specific problem of social justice in modern finance (the "Problem"). They will work under the supervision of an academic member of staff and in collaboration with a non-academic organisation working in the relevant field in the private sector, the public sector or the third sector ("partner organisation"). For example, in 2019/20, a group of LLM students developed and implemented a strategy to put pressure on the European Central Bank and several National Central Banks to take into account the impact that the Eurozone monetary policy is having on the environment, particularly how it aggravates the current climate emergency. The students worked under the supervision of Dr Javier Solana and in collaboration with ClientEarth, a non-profit environmental law organisation.
The course is structured around the Problem and it is designed to support students in the preparation of two research outputs: a report and a knowledge exchange plan. First, students will explore the systemic nature of law and finance to identify relevant legal tools that they can use to design a strategy to address the Problem. Students will also explore different frameworks to evaluate and reflect on the impact of law on different socio-economic and political aspects. These frameworks will support the students in the identification of suitable legal tools to address the Problem. Moreover, students will participate in several training workshops to develop the necessary skills to produce the research outputs. Lastly, the course will culminate with a presentation of these outputs to representatives of the partner organisation, who will provide students with feedback on their work.
There are several aspects that make this course unique. First, it is designed to give students the opportunity to gain practical experience and to develop transferrable skills that will be directly relevant for their professional careers. Second, it will expose students to a way of thinking about legal practice that is very different from what is normally taught in undergraduate law degrees at law schools across the world. Lastly, this course will give students the opportunity to make a real impact on modern finance by influencing business plans, policy debates, and advocacy work.
8 x 2-hour seminars
2 x 2-hour sessions of supervised group research assignments
There will be three pieces of summative assessment:
■ 12,000-word group report on Part II (75%) - Second term
■ 4-person groups
■ Moderated peer-assessment (see Section 41)
■ 2,500-word group knowledge exchange plan (15%)
■ 4-person groups
■ Moderated peer-assessment (see Section 41)
■ Individual oral presentation (10%)
If 4-person groups cannot be formed, the length of group assessment exercises will be adapted to ensure that the workload is the same for all studnets, regardless of the number of students in their group.
Main Assessment In: April/May
This course offers students an opportunity to explore how they, as lawyers, can promote social justice in modern finance. In so doing, the course aims at raising students' awareness of the potential use of lawyering skills and legal tools to make a positive impact on society. It also aims at supporting students in the development of the necessary skills for them to design and implement their own social justice projects. These skills can be transferred into other professional environments, particularly those in the area of policy and advocacy, which will enhance students' employability. Lastly, the course aims at giving students a practical insight into less conventional careers in corporate and financial law.
Intended Learning Outcomes of Course
By the end of this course students will be able to:
■ Explain how finance shapes specific social justice issues
■ Develop and implement an investigation plan
■ Undertake independent research with minimum supervision
■ Design a legal strategy to achieve a specific change in the operation of the financial system and identify factors that will affect the effectiveness of that strategy
■ Identify key stakeholders and relevant knowledge exchange mechanisms to disseminate that legal strategy
■ Communicate investigation and research findings to a non-technical audience effectively
■ Demonstrate appropriate standards of behaviour, both as individuals and as members of a group, including ethical and professional standards expected in the legal profession.
Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits
Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.