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This was the Society’s 111th annual conference but its first to be held virtually.

University of Exeter hosts the Society of Legal Scholars’ conference

At the start of September the University of Exeter hosted the Society of Legal Scholars’ conference under the presidency of University of Exeter’s Professor Rebecca Probert. This was the Society’s 111th annual conference but its first to be held virtually.

While the virtual format was dictated by circumstances, it brought many benefits. The conference was able to attract a record number of delegates, with over 550 people from almost 40 different countries attending over the four days of the conference. It was also far more accessible to those with disabilities, those with childcare responsibilities, and those with limited budgets.

Around 300 papers were delivered in 28 different subject sections, including a number from colleagues in the Law School. Ana Beduschi chaired the migration section and Greta Bosch the comparative section. A further 40 papers were presented by doctoral students in a dedicated graduate slot, with sessions being chaired by David Barrett, Greta Bosch, Philippa Collins, Tim Dodsworth, Mollie Gasciogne, Rachel Gimson, Sara McIlroy and Isabelle Rueda. There were in addition plenary events celebrating 40 years of the Society’s journal Legal Studies, providing advice to early career researchers and those interested in judicial careers, and reflecting on the impact of COVID-19 on academic life.

A virtual walk of Exeter helped to provide a sense of place, with Anne Barlow, David Tyzack, Tia Matt and Chantal Stebbings all providing insights into locations across Exeter with interesting legal connections, past and present. Those attending were also encouraged to post photos of where they were in the world, and the shots from back gardens, the open countryside and, in one case, a canal boat, indicated that the conference was being accessed from a wide range of locations. There was also a virtual reception and a quiz with a strong Devon theme.

The conference closed with a session devoted to the issue of the climate emergency and the law school, which included a paper from Alice Venn and reflections on how much the carbon footprint of the conference had been reduced by the virtual format.

Date: 2 December 2020