Rachael O'Connor

Rachael O'Connor

Profile

I joined the School of Law as a lecturer in June 2018, following working as a commercial lawyer within an international law firm, Pinsent Masons LLP. In my post-qualification years following my training contract (during which I worked within the Property, Corporate, Tax and Employment Law teams), I worked within a small Corporate Tax team and specialised in advising companies, public authorities and other businesses on transactional taxes including corporation tax, VAT, employment taxes and property taxes.

I am a graduate of the LLB Law and Accounting programme at the University of Leeds and the University of Law's Legal Practice Course (PGDip) programme and since August 2020, have been a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

I am very passionate about student support and academic personal tutoring and have oversight of both within the School in my roles as Director of Student Support and Academic Personal Tutor Lead. My particular focus relates to building effective staff/student relationships and empowering students to be their very best, no matter what their background may be. As part of my Academic Personal Tutor Lead role, I have been supporting the institutional review of tutoring, including the adoption of new supportive technology. Findings from my latest research project have also fed into this review.

During the covid-19 pandemic, I have led our School’s Transitions workstream, developing our practice to support returning students in the transition to online learning and teaching. I have also been an active member of the Community and Wellbeing workstream, working with colleagues to deliver wellbeing workshops for students and other events. I have also managed and worked collaboratively with a group of undergraduate students who have been responsible for amplifying the student voice and collecting student feedback during the pandemic (Community Architects).

I am a founding member of LITE’s Internationalising Student Education Network, a group set up in 2019 to help support colleagues across campus in teaching and working with an increasingly diverse and international student cohort. The work I am doing in the space of reverse mentoring, academic personal tutoring and internationalisation supports a number of the University’s strategic goals relating to diversity and student experience and draws parallels with legal education and the legal profession.

I was Acting Director of Community Engagement in 2019 and Community Engagement Manager from Dec 2019-July 2020. During this time, I worked closely with our Community Engagement Activities Co-Ordinator and the Educational Engagement team to develop our community engagement projects in the School of Law, enhancing student numbers and bringing in new external partners from the legal profession, focusing in particular on development of our StreetLaw and PrisonLaw projects. I also worked collaboratively with colleagues to move many of our community engagement projects online, in light of the covid-19 pandemic. I am also the Lecturer representative on our School’s Management Team.

When I'm not in the School, I enjoy spending time with my family, particularly my dog, Rudy. I love training at my crossfit gym, running and practicing yoga. I also regularly rehearse and perform with a local musical theatre group.

Responsibilities

  • Director of Student Support
  • Academic Personal Tutor Lead

Research interests

My current research relates to the use of reverse mentoring in higher education to break down hierarchies and foster impactful staff/student relationships, with a particular focus on empowerment of marginalised student groups. The research stems from exploration of the use of reverse mentoring from a diversity perspective in the legal profession and is an important tool for developing student voice, professional identity, sense of belonging and authentic staff/student relationships which can be translated into the workplace. My latest project involved working closely with undergraduate international law students in this context and was funded by the Association of Law Teachers and the Leeds Institute of Teaching Excellence (LITE). My current work builds on this, focusing on empowerment of ethnically minoritised student groups through reverse mentoring with staff members, exploring its impact on sense of belonging and its connection with academic personal tutoring. I am also working closely with the Educational Engagement team on a reverse mentoring project across campus. I have presented on my reverse mentoring work at national and international conferences and network events, as well as writing blogs and advising external organisations on reverse mentoring:

Leeds Institute for Teaching Excellence blog – Reverse Mentoring in the School of Law

Association of Law Teachers blog – Setting up a reverse mentoring scheme: some practical hints and tips

Association of Law Teachers blog – Connecting Legal Education: The ECR Session

<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="https://essl.leeds.ac.uk/dir/research-projects">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>

Qualifications

  • LLB Law and Accounting
  • PGDip Legal Practice Course

Professional memberships

  • The Law Society
  • Solicitors Regulation Authority
  • Chartered Institute of Taxation (student)
  • Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy

Student education

My role is focused around student education in terms of both teaching and research interests. As a Lecturer in the School, at undergraduate level, I teach Employment Law, The Law of Trusts and Land Law. I have previously taught Company Law. I have also recently taught on a cross-faculty Social Sciences module ‘State of Emergency: Social science and the COVID-19 pandemic’, focussing on Tax Law as a recovery tool post-pandemic. At postgraduate level, I teach International Tax Law and Policy.

I also supervise dissertations at undergraduate and postgraduate level, on a range of topics although typically in the areas of Tax, Employment and the Legal Profession. I am academic personal tutor to a number of tutees across all undergraduate year groups.

I engage with student education more widely outside the classroom through my scholarship and through my leadership roles as Director of Student Support, Academic Personal Tutor Lead and through community engagement projects, as well as my roles within the Internationalisation Committee, the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion committee and within the Staff/Student Forum.

Research groups and institutes

  • Centre for Business Law and Practice
  • Centre for Innovation and Research in Legal Education