High profile international legal experts discussed the use of public interest litigation this week.at a major conference, chaired by the head of the University of Ulster’s solicitor training school, Paul Mageean.
Nearly 200 lawyers and community activists attended the ‘Developing Public Interest Litigation: The International Experience’ event which was opened by the Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland, Sir Declan Morgan at the Holiday Inn in Belfast.
Among the distinguished speakers were: Judge Michael Kirby, who until his recent retirement, had been the longest serving judge in Australia; Dr Ann Skelton, Director of the Centre for Child Law at the University of Pretoria; Mr Brad Seligman, Senior Counsel with the Impact Fund in the USA and Michael Farrell, Senior Solicitor with the Free Legal Advice Centre in the Republic of Ireland.
Paul Mageean, Director of the Graduate School for Professional Legal Education at Ulster’s Magee campus said: “The aim of today’s conference was to illustrate the importance of public interest litigation which seeks to use the law for the benefit of those most marginalised in society.”
Mr Mageean, who chairs the Public Interest Litigation Project, a privately funded initiative which seeks to advance Human Rights and Equality in Northern Ireland through the use of and support for public interest litigation, described the conference as a major step forward in the development of public interest litigation.
“Attracting some of the world’s leading public interest practitioners to the conference along with the Lord Chief Justice will help to raise the profile of this important area of law particularly among the new generation of lawyers.”
In order to raise awareness, Mr Mageean has developed a public interest litigation programme at the Graduate School that offers two student placements in American legal offices – the first take place next spring.