Rachael O'Connor

Rachael O'Connor


I joined the School of Law as a lecturer in June 2018, following working as a commercial lawyer for 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 in 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. I am also a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (August 2020).

Within the School, I am an active member of the Centre for Innovation and Research in Legal Education, as well as our new Legal Professions Working Group. In the context of legal education, 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, focusing in particular on creating safe spaces and platforms for the voices of minoritised students. As part of my Academic Personal Tutor Lead role, I have been supporting the institutional review of academic personal tutoring, including the adoption of new supportive technology. Findings from my latest research project have also fed into this review (see below).

During the covid-19 pandemic, I have been leading our School’s Transitions workstream, developing our practice to support returning students in the transition to online learning and teaching. I am also 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 am also an active member of the Sense of Belonging working group across the University and the Working Class Representation group, working with colleagues to develop initiatives supporting positive and inclusive cultural change for colleagues and students.

I was Acting Director of Community Engagement in 2019 and Community Engagement Manager from December 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.


  • Director of Student Support
  • Academic Personal Tutor Lead
  • LITE Fellow

Research interests

I am currenlty conducting a three-year fellowship project with the Leeds Institute for Teaching Excellence. This project explores the intersection of reverse mentoring and academic personal tutoring. The project was co-designed with with a research team of students from across campus who self-identify as under-represented at University. 

My previous projects have involved international students mentoring academic and student support colleagues, students mentoring our campus police liaision officer and students from across campus mentoring the University’s senior leadership team (the latter project was run in partnership with our Educational Engagement team).

I am also currently working in partnership with legal mental health and wellbeing charity LawCare on a reverse mentoring project involving aspiring, junior and senior lawyers in the legal profession, focusing on the intersection of inclusion and wellbeing.

Reverse mentoring involves the intentional and organised disruption of power dynamics and hierarchies that we see in the “traditional” order of things in order to facilitate change.

Reverse mentoring can build bridges across generational, gender and cultural divides and have transformational impact on mentors and mentees, as well as wider communities beyond the project participants.

I regularly present my work on my reverse mentoring work at national and international conferences and network events, as well as writing blogs and advising external organisations and other higher education institutions on reverse mentoring. I have won awards for my reverse mentoring and related work, including a University Early Career Teaching Excellence Award (2021), the Stan Marsh Prize for Best Paper at the Association of Law Teachers conference (2022), the University of Leeds Faculty of Social Sciences Partnership Award for EDI (2023 – and was runner up for the University Award) and a Kindness in Education Award (2022). 

My publications/websites are as follows: 

<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>


  • LLB Law and Accounting
  • PGDip Legal Practice Course
  • PGCert Academic Practice

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 and support in terms of both teaching and research interests.

As an Associate Professor in the School, at undergraduate level, I teach across Employment Law, The Law of Trusts, Land Law and a cross-faculty module on COVID19 and the Social Sciences. I have previously taught Company Law. At postgraduate level, I have taught International Tax Law and Policy.

I 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.

Research groups and institutes

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