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Monday, 26 April 2021

CSFLC 2021The Faculty is delighted to report that the 2021 Cambridge Sixth-Form Law Conference (CSFLC), which took place as a virtual event over the week of 22-26 March, had the most diverse cohort of delegates in the Conference’s four-decade history.

The CSFLC usually takes place as a four-day residential, which brings 200 delegates to Cambridge. Traditionally, the CSFLC holds sample lectures, introduces students to mooting, and invites barristers, solicitors, and judges to speak about the legal profession. The aim of the Conference is to give students a balanced, informed view of Law as a subject and a possible career path, and to give them a sense of what it might be like to study the subject at Cambridge. Of the 200 delegates, approximately fifty are students who meet widening participation criteria and thus qualify for fully-funded places, which are generously funded by our Access and Widening Participation Partner firms – Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Hogan Lovells, Maitland Chambers, and our new partner Clifford Chance – and the University’s Widening Participation Project Fund.

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic resulted in the cancellation of the 2020 Conference, but the CSFLC Committee, made up entirely of student volunteers, managed to offer a ‘Best of’ day to 2020 delegates last September. This experience was invaluable for enabling the Committee to plan a successful virtual 2021 Conference. The Committee decided very early in the planning process to offer delegate placements only to students from widening participation backgrounds, a decision that was undertaken to acknowledge the disproportionate impact of the pandemic’s disruption on the lives of students from underrepresented and disadvantaged backgrounds.

The Conference was offered as a combination of asynchronous and live interactive content. Pre-recorded lectures, admissions talks, and student life videos were hosted on YouTube, and made accessible to unsuccessful Conference applicants and anyone who registered their interest in accessing the materials. In the interactive element, students tackled a variety of legal problems led by Faculty members and the Committee in small breakout rooms to mimic Cambridge’s unique small-group teaching, and engaged with the Committee members in a Q&A about Law. The former was especially popular with all parties involved and may indeed make itself a more permanent fixture in the Conference’s programming in the future.

Participating in this conference has given me great confidence that I would not only fit in at Cambridge University, but also enjoy the process of acquiring a law degree... Overall, this experience surpassed my expectations and consolidated my prior plan to apply to Law at Cambridge. 2021 Conference delegate

Most importantly, offering the CSFLC to students that met several widening participation criteria resulted in the most diverse Conference delegation in its history. Nearly 66% of the delegates identified as ethnically diverse or BAME, with 22% and 16.5% of attendees identifying as British Bangladeshi, Arab and Pakistani and British Black African and Caribbean respectively. Over 50% of participants were eligible for Free School Meals, and 96% of the delegation came from maintained-sector schools. The online format allowed the Conference to include students on a scale it may not normally be able to due to the logistical constraints and cost of the in-person residential format.

The 2021 Conference was not traditional by any means and yet it was still well-received by delegates, faculty members, and committee members alike. As one student wrote: "…the [CSFLC] was a wonderful experience, it certainly made the most out of very challenging circumstances". The Conference in a virtual format still managed to leave delegates with a greater understanding of the study of Law, of legal careers and of the admissions process, and with a desire to apply to Cambridge. The Faculty commends the Conference committee for their commitment in keeping the Conference alive during a global pandemic and hopes it can once again host CSFLC delegates in Cambridge in 2022.