- Course: LLB in Law, LLM in International and European Human Rights Law and PhD in Law
- Year of graduation: 2023
- Nationality: British
- Job title: Research Fellow in Disability and Human Rights Law
- Company: University of Leeds
How would you describe your student experience at the School?
It sounds like a cliché, but I truly don’t believe my student experience at the School of Law could have been improved anywhere else. I completed all my degrees at Leeds, beginning with the LLB in Law, an LLM in International and European Human Rights Law and then receiving the ‘School of Law Teaching and Research Scholarship’ to complete my PhD.
As soon as I began selecting elective modules in the second year of my LLB, I knew I was on to something special. While studying International Human Rights Law, Feminism and the Law, and Disability Law, I was lucky enough to encounter multiple lecturers and professors who implored me to consider a career in academia. Up until that point, I had only ever wanted to be a lawyer. Learning about how to critique the law and how we can use law and policy to increase social justice, totally transformed my understanding of the world around me and the impact that I felt my career might have.
I received unwavering support from the School at all times throughout my degrees. Academic, research and support staff who believed in me have played a foundational role in my academic and professional successes. As a result of being a student in the Law School I have gained mentors, friends and colleagues who have changed the social justice landscape and who I am incredibly proud to work alongside.
What are some of the most valuable skills you developed during your time at the School?
The opportunities to collect a diverse skill set while you are studying at Leeds are really extensive and continue to improve each year.
During my degrees, I got involved in mooting, working with local and national charities and third-sector organisations, attending and speaking at academic conferences, writing articles for student journals, and working on group or team projects, all of which helped me develop my interpersonal, public speaking and research skills. During my master’s degree I sat on the School’s Equality and Diversity Committee alongside very senior colleagues. This gave me a fantastic insight into strategic leadership and teamworking.
During my PhD and beyond, I have also had the opportunity to teach at undergraduate and masters levels which I really love. I got very involved in the Research Centres both within the School and across the broader University. I have introduced a seminar series for research postgraduates and early career researchers in the Centre for Law and Social Justice and I am an active member of the Centre for Disability Studies. Attending events with these centres provides a great opportunity to contribute to research agendas in the School and to learn from colleagues in developing your own research and critical thinking skills. The research community in the School is really strong, and I have gained so many valuable tips and insights from colleagues across the different research centres.
How did your course(s) at the School influenced your chosen career path?
During all my degrees I was drawn to studying modules and course content that advanced social justice or that stretched my horizons. Once I began to see how academic commentary and impactful research with different communities could really help challenge and combat disadvantage, I was hooked. I knew I wanted a career in academia that would allow me to critique law and policy choices but also that I wanted to work with charities and third sector organisations to centralise the voices of disabled people in the process of change. I also got an enormous amount out of studying modules that were slightly different than my field of expertise. I studied the Laws of War in the Age of Terror and was completely captivated by a whole new area of international law to explore. I also really enjoyed exploring the philosophy of law in Jurisprudence.
Studying courses with world-leading academics who would become my mentors really inspired me. I saw how their work advising Governments and International Human Rights Bodies, was influencing real-world change. Studying Disability Law with Professor Anna Lawson FBA, FAcSS, entirely transformed my understanding of society and social justice. Studying with Professor Julie Wallbank helped mould me into the feminist academic I am today. People like Professor Luke Clements, Professor Nick Taylor, Professor Lydia Bleasdale and Professor Jen Hendry moulded my critical analysis and research skills, and profoundly influenced the type of lecturer and researcher I wanted to become.
What are your career plans for the future?
Once I had completed my doctoral research, I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in research as a disability rights academic and activist. I also knew that I wanted to mould a career in which my research was focused upon driving real-world improvements in the lives of disabled people and other disadvantaged groups. I wanted to use what I had learned during my PhD research and transform my findings into real-world impact in the lived realities of disabled people.
A great way to do this is to obtain a Post-doctoral Research Fellowship. Post-doc Fellowships are awards from research funding bodies which enable you to continue your field of study or to try and transform your findings into meaningful impact in the real world. They are competitive to obtain but provide an excellent opportunity to further build your research network, work alongside charities or third-sector organisations on agendas for change, and also to write academic publications based upon your research.
I obtained the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Postdoctoral Fellowship which is awarded through the White Rose Doctoral Training Partnership. The core aim of the Fellowship is to consolidate the impact of my doctoral research across interdisciplinary, sociolegal academic, activist and policy agendas, and to enhance my skills, experience, and networks to facilitate a meaningful ongoing career in research. I will be focusing on achieving academic, policy, and real-world impact to improve financial flourishing outcomes for disabled adults living in the community. More details about my research area can be found here.
I hope the Fellowship award will provide a great platform from which to continue a career in academia through further successful research funding awards and perhaps a lectureship position within the School.
What would be your top tips in terms of career advice for current students?
I have three top tips in terms of career advice:
- Be open to different options. When I arrived at Leeds as an undergraduate, I was certain I would become a lawyer. I was wrong! Through the support and guidance of my lecturers, I discovered that I had a brain and passion really wired up for a life in academia. Be open to professional opportunities across the board, whether it is academia, the commercial world, working in the charity sector or even doing something entirely different. The skill set your can obtain in Leeds is incredibly diverse and lends itself to many directions.
- Get involved in the extra activities available to you in the School. This includes the research centres, the law clinics, working with the local community and the student-led publications etc. Most importantly, attend the events which the research centres put on. During my degrees I met personal heroes and legal legends including Sir Bob Hepple, Baroness Brenda Hale, Baroness Shami Chakrabarti and (Leeds Law School alumnus) Sir Keir Starmer.
- This one is a bit more obvious, but I say it as someone who has completed all their degrees at Leeds and taught here. If you want top marks, think critically about the law, the cases, and the policy documents you encounter, and if you are shooting for first class marks, do the extra reading!