The search is on for former law students who attended The College of Law in York when it first opened its doors in 1989.
To mark its 20th anniversary alumni who studied at the York centre are being invited to a garden party on Saturday, June 20, and the College is particularly keen to find those who were there in the early years.
It has set former students the challenge of getting in touch with as many of their contemporaries as possible and is offering a case of wine to the alumnus who proposes the most former classmates to be invited to the event.
The party, taking place at the centre in Bishopthorpe, will give staff past and present, friends of the College and alumni the chance to reminisce about life in the early days.
Bob Heslett, Vice President of The Law Society, will be the guest speaker in one of his last engagements before he becomes President in July. Mr Heslett has strong links with the region and has represented the constituency of Leeds on the Law Society’s Council since 2001. A partner with law firm Beachcroft LLP, his former roles include Chairman of the Yorkshire Region Duty Solicitor Scheme, President of Leeds Law Society, and Deputy Stipendiary Magistrate in Hull.
The York centre opened on the site of a former secondary school and initially delivered the old Law Society Finals Course, the predecessor of the current Legal Practice Course, plus the Common Professional Examination, now the Graduate Diploma in Law, for those converting to law from other subjects.
Joint responsibility for the opening and management of the York centre in 1989 was shared by Board Directors Robert Hill - later to become a District Judge - and Dai Jones, both of whom were formerly with The College of Law in Chester.
Recalling those early days, when he also headed the Legal Practice Course, Dai Jones said: “The opening of the York centre fitted in with the College’s strategy at that time of locating centres in attractive and convenient sites with a collegiate campus atmosphere, which was not really possible for the College in cities. This was consistent with its approach in Chester and Guildford. The centre has always attracted a high calibre of graduates from across the country. I very much enjoyed my time at York and am pleased to see that it is still thriving. "
In the early days of the College many of the technological advances, which have transformed today’s modern workplace, had not yet arrived. Instead of the professional printing methods used by the College today, a team of secretaries had to type up all the resource material written by lecturers and send them for copying into books. One secretary also had the task of allocating hundreds of students individually by hand to their chosen elective classes - a process now carried out electronically in a matter of seconds.
But some things never change and then, as now, the York centre greatly valued the sporting achievements of its students and boasted excellent sports facilities including rugby, netball, tennis, basketball, football and hockey pitches.
Dai Jones also refereed rugby matches himself and once even played when a team of lawyers from Leeds came to compete against the College team. Staff participated in summer tennis tournaments and in the winter entertained the students by acting out an annual pantomime written by a member of staff.
Paul Aber, who has been Regional Director of The College of Law in York for the past five and a half years, said: “My role continues to be immensely rewarding and I very much look forward to the years ahead. We work with some of the most talented young lawyers around, many of whom will remain in the North East, and aim to give them the best possible start to their professional legal careers ensuring that their time here is as fulfilling as it can be.
“It is great to work with such a strong and experienced team of tutors and support staff and we also enjoy the backing of the region’s legal profession, many of whom trained at York."
He added that the generosity of the legal profession enabled the College to offer a range of extra curricular activities including mentoring to all students who want it, a comprehensive practitioner speaker programme, Law Fairs, a huge Legal Sports Day, the regional finals of the CEDR Negotiation Competition and an exceptional pro bono programme.
“Over the last 20 years the York centre, our staff, graduates and supporters have made a significant contribution to the profession, and it is important to mark this and to thank those involved," he said. “Our continuing focus will be to ensure that York offers our students not only the best training environment but also the strongest foundation for career development."
Anybody who attended the York centre and wishes to attend the 20th anniversary garden party should email firstname.lastname@example.org or call Karina Smith on 01483 216678.