Ministry and Leiden Law School to work together more closely
The Ministry of Justice and Security and Leiden Law School are planning to collaborate on a more structural basis. This is the outcome of a meeting that took place at the Academy Building in Leiden on 19 October. Those present at the meeting included the Minister for Legal Protection, Franc Weerwind, President of the Executive Board, Annetje Ottow, Dean Joanne van der Leun, and Vice Dean Ton Liefaard. The focus of the collaboration will be on research, education, and policy.
During the visit, thoughts were exchanged on the new structural collaboration that will be beneficial to the Ministry, the University, as well as legal practice. All those present felt that joining forces in the field of research, education, and policy is very important. Minister Weerwind also acknowledged that when publishing sensitive reports, academic support can be very valuable. It helps with how a report is received, limiting the possibilities of ambivalent interpretations. At the same time, those present agreed that collaborations currently rely heavily on individual work contacts. More consistent communication could improve collaboration efforts. Since portfolios, positions, and people rotate within the Ministry, it can be difficult to find the right person. A short, direct line of communication would be a huge improvement.
Van der Leun pointed out the possibility of instating a chair as a means of working together. Currently, collaborations often focus on contract research that directly affects policy after it has been published. By instating a chair, more attention could be given to long-term policy strategies. It would also promote interdisciplinary collaborations on issues that are not part of the public debate. Minister Weerwind has noticed a desire for this type of collaborations within his department. At the moment, collaborations take place on an ad-hoc basis, dominated by the 'crisis of the day', which ideally should be anticipated. More direct contact between the Ministry and the University would also enable scholars to have a look at and even advise on the agenda. That way, the University would be able to call upon expertise from within the entire organisation and both organisations could look towards the future together.
Liefaard also mentioned the desire to more actively get students involved at the Ministry by means of internships and assignments. At the moment, it can be difficult for students to start a career within the Ministry. Major law firms have no problems getting in touch with students with internship offers and large events. The Court of The Hague has also received many applications since they started working together with the University on educational projects. The Court of The Hague offers a masterclass for students, for instance, as well as a jointly taught course. More internships, guest lectures and proactive promotion of starter positions would create more enthusiasm among students to start working at the Ministry. The University also believes it is important to present all aspects of the workfield to its students by inviting alumni from various professions to engage in conversations with students to talk about their future. This could, for instance, generate more attention for the legal aid system among the younger generation of legal experts.
Joining forces with societal partners is very important to Leiden Law School. Societal issues involving the law can often be better understood from an interdisciplinary stance. Leiden Law School has developed a broad spectrum of research activities in collaboration with or commissioned by the Ministry, such as research projects on the prison system, cyber law, and child law. These types of projects have a direct link with society and provide answers to important policy issues. For instance, in collaboration with the Faculty of Social Sciences, Leiden Law School conducted research into the placement of children in care. After their report was published, the government immediately generated funding to systematically improve the child placement process. It is but one example of how a research report can have a direct impact on the public debate. This is what makes collaborations between scholars and policymakers so valuable.
Leiden Law School also fosters the legal experts and criminologists of the future. By introducing students to the different intersections of the law and by enabling them to do an internship at different places in society, we can train students to become professionals capable of dealing with a wide variety of societal dilemmas.
Text: Mireille van der Stoep