What is your current role and how did you get there?
I am Reader in Law at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (IALS), where I am the Director of Postgraduate Research and also Director of a new research centre – the Centre for Financial Law, Regulation & Compliance (FinReg).
I completed my PhD at the University of Limerick in Ireland. I started my academic career as a lecturer at the University of Leeds, on a 3-year fixed term contract. As that contract neared its end, I was fortunate to be offered a permanent lectureship at the University of Manchester. I later moved to the University of Sussex to take up a senior lectureship. After 5 years in Sussex, I joined IALS in October 2019.
Did you always know you wanted to work in academia?
During my degree, I never envisaged academia as a career route for me. I anticipated that I would complete my degree, then sit the Law Society entrance exams before eventually qualifying as a solicitor. During the final year of my degree, I attended a ‘postgraduate options’ session at Limerick, which made me think that postgraduate study might be an option for me.
What are the things you like the most about your current role? What are the challenges?
The bulk of my day-to-day work involves engaging with PGR students and colleagues about the MPhil/PhD programme. While it can be challenging, I really enjoy working with students to help them progress in their studies and to support them where possible.
Unsurprisingly, the current pandemic provides particular challenges, not least not being able to access Charles Clore House and not seeing students and colleagues in person. We have managed the transition to online supervision, vivas, upgrades, and wider engagement relatively smoothly (I think) – though I do look forward to getting back to the building and to the weekly coffee sessions with students.
What do you know now that you wish you had known earlier on in your career?
Mistakes are a part of life; you will make mistakes – but it is important to learn from them. I have been fortunate to have excellent colleagues and mentors throughout my career, so have been able to learn a lot from them (and to seek their advice when I am unsure about something or made a mistake). Take advantage of such opportunities to learn from others!
What advice would you give to PhD students looking to get their work published and recognised within their respective fields?
Talk to your supervisor(s) and/or other academics to identify appropriate places to target for publication. It is important that you target your work to journals that fit your work – for example, submitting a doctrinal legal analysis to a journal that prefers theoretical research (or, vice versa) is perhaps not the best strategy.
Similarly, ask for feedback on drafts before you submit to a journal – your work will improve dramatically as a result of (constructive) feedback from friends/colleagues who look at it with a fresh pair of eyes. It is tough to get articles published, so take advantage of opportunities for feedback at an early stage.
And when your work is published, promote it widely!
Do you have any advice about obtaining funding for PhD studies?
Securing funding for PhD research is increasingly difficult. Look at different doctoral training colleges/partnerships to see what funding they offer, for example. At IALS/SAS, we are part of the London Arts & Humanities Partnership (LAHP), which offers funding and training to students. Depending on your research topic and/or background, it might be possible to secure funding from national governments – for example, at IALS we have many students who have received funding from their government to complete research that is directly relevant to their home countries.
Further information on funding is available on the SAS funding webpage: https://www.sas.ac.uk/graduate-study/fees-and-funding/mphilphd-funding
What research project(s) are you currently working on?
I am currently (slowly) working on a book-length project on proceeds of crime powers. Drawing upon empirical interviews with stakeholders in Ireland and the UK, this project explores the operation of non-conviction based asset forfeiture. The book is co-authored with a colleague in Leeds, Dr Jen Hendry.
Describe a typical work day
During the pandemic, there is no ‘typical work day’. Some days are loaded with meetings; others involve reviewing progress of students; yet others can be taken up entirely by emails, meetings, and reacting to particular ‘emergencies’. Some days, I might even find time for a small bit of research (which currently involves analysing interview data).