24 May 2016
Lessons in business taught to year 9 pupils from St Paul’s Way School by qLegal students came to a brilliant finale at the Digital Catapult Centre, where on 18 March 2016, the high school students pitched their new business ideas to industry professionals.
qLegal was established in 2013 and has since endeavoured to excel in providing a variety of legal advice and skills. Teach Tech Law is a recently established programme by qLegal where volunteer postgraduate students provided lessons to pupils at St Paul’s Way School in Tower Hamlets, East London. Lessons centred on pupils developing business ideas, which relate to technology and enterprise. At the end of the programme, students attended a pitch it day and participated in a Q&A with lawyers and start-up and pitch their business ideas.
The six qLegal postgraduate students came from a variety of backgrounds and worked in groups to formulate effective lesson plans for the pupils through liaising with Anthony Fitzpatrick, the brilliant teacher facilitating the programme at the school. It was a daunting task to present to a class, however the lessons were well received with enthusiasm and a great flair for business creativity being displayed from the offset by the year 9 students, with every session having enthusiastic participation. The passion and energy was vibrant, even though the lessons took place on a Friday afternoon after school!
Over the course of six weeks, armed with sticky notes, lesson plans and PowerPoint presentations, the postgraduates taught the students a range of law and business, from trademarks and designing a logo, to financing a business. Each week saw business ideas grow and evolve, with impressive art skills and technical details displayed. Working together in groups, the students enhanced and refined their business ideas that meshed together technology, business and law, with the postgraduate students always available to answer questions and lend a helping hand.
There was an impressive array of posters created and a buzz of excitement for the pitch it and the postgraduates helped the students refine ideas and encourage them to keep going. After fine-tuning their business ideas, it all came down to the Pitch it Day, where the three top teams would win a day of learning how to code at the Iron Yard.
In the heart of London’s Kings Cross lies the Digital Catapult Centre, a technological data sharing business and the venue for the Pitch-It. Students arrived in their best business attire, telling their postgraduate mentors that they were excited, but understandably, a little nervous.
The day kicked off with presentations introducing qLegal, St Paul’s Way School and the judges for the day. The three judges presenting had a wealth of experience between them. Sarah Pearce, Partner at Cooley LLP, Lua Cooper the Centre Director of the Iron Yard, and Ian Walden, Professor of Information and Communications Law at QMUL, all shared their respective backgrounds and routes into the careers they have now. A discussion was led into the varying career routes that each of the judges had, with Lua Cooper elucidating that she started in David Cameron’s office after her politics degree before deciding she wanted to work with start-up companies and Professor Walden highlighting interesting cases he dealt with in his career. It was highlighted to the students that the need not decide on their career in year 9, but that there was always a route into law. The students actively engaged in a Q&A session before preparing themselves for their pitch.
The pitches began with the postgraduate students enthusiastically wishing the class the best of luck, as they took confidently took to the stage. The first group was trio Team Cyclops, who effectively conveyed their business idea of an app that manages diabetes, becoming the next possible advancement for medical technology. They answered questions from the judges with confidence, before allowing the second team on to pitch. Team Mirror Mirror came prepared with brilliant business cards and pitch that was broken up with laughs as they presented their fantastic virtual mirror, which scans the user and allows the user to swipe and see what outfit they would like to purchase from an online store, something many of the postgraduates said they would love! Team Titanhashtag7 were next up with their security app for parents to control online content from a single device. Next to present was team OpenMind, who presented their product mycard – a high school’s version of an Oyster card to pay for lunch! Lastly, team Gramix presented Glowix, their luminous brick that could light up any part of the city in a variety of different construction uses.
It was evident that the ideas were fantastic and a plethora of thought and care went into honing them. The judges asked some tough questions but the students were quick to answer them tactfully, even adding a little humour. The postgraduate students stood incredibly proud and impressed of their year 9 class, who had successfully pitched a technological business idea that they had created, which is no mean feat even for the most experienced businessman! Whilst the judges deliberated their three top teams, the students relaxed and, accompanied by the postgraduate students, took a tour of the Digital Catapult Centre. Many highlighted how fun the day had been, whilst others were keen to ask the postgraduate students more about studying Law and university life.
After much deliberation, the judges made their decision. As tension mounted, a drumroll ensued to announce the winners. In third place was team Cyclops for their diabetes app, with judges praising their understanding of their target market. Second place was team Mirror Mirror who the judges felt had an outstanding pitch. First place went to team Gramix for their luminous brick, with Lua Cooper highlighting that she loved the outside the box thinking displayed by the duo. After an impromptu speech given by the winners, the postgraduates thanked the judges and the students before the arrival of pizza, a positive ending for an extremely positive day.
Throughout the programme, a mutually beneficial relationship was built between the postgraduates and the high school students. The postgraduates effectively took away invaluable skills pertaining to leadership, time management and teamwork. It was an experience that many would not forget, as the students had even called the postgraduate’s mentors and role models by the end of the programme. Many students continually thanked the postgraduates and it was elating to hear future plans of studying at Queen Mary, pursuing a career in law and becoming the next Richard Branson as the topic of conversation of many students’ future aspirations. The programme was nothing short of an extreme success that clearly highlights the incredibly positive impact that a small team of Queen Mary postgraduate students has had on the future aspirations of an amazing class of pupils from St Paul’s Way School.
Sadia Zaman is a 2015 postgraduate law student at the Centre for Commercial Law Studies, Queen Mary University of London and volunteered for the Teach Tech Law Programme