SOAS (The School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London is the only Higher Education institution in Europe specialising in the study of Asia, Africa and the Near and Middle East. Postgraduate students there have set up an advocacy network to offer pro bono legal and policy research for groups such as law firms and development organisations.
The group, named Banyan, is mutually beneficial to the public and the students by linking together students of postgraduate programmes at SOAS eager to apply their skills and organisations in need of such support. Banyan currently has a network of more than fifty postgraduate students working on many projects. In one project four postgraduate students researched and wrote a report regarding Sudan and the International Criminal Court for the NGO Aegis Trust. Furthermore parts of another report written by the students for several legal historians in the USA were cited in oral argument before the Supreme Court in the high profile case of Kiobel! Being read out in front of the Supreme Court in the USA shows how well respected and trusted the work done in SOAS is.
Banyan was founded in April 2012 by Jessica Whelligan and Luke Smitham, both SOAS MA Law Students, together with SOAS Research Associate Deval Desai. It has produced world-class work continuing the excellence for which SOAS is known for. The experiment is a great way to apply skills gained throughout law school in a practical and global environment.