Reflections of a NKOTB: my first two months as a legal academic
After ten years of study, five years of practice (including private practice and homelessness lawyering), two undergraduate degrees, three postgraduate qualifications, two children, hundreds of clients and thousands (millions?) of pages of legal documents, I came to the conclusion that I don’t want to be a lawyer. For now.
It wasn’t that I was burnt out, mistreated or jaded; I just don’t have the passion for casework at this stage of my career. But I loved the research and advocacy part of my role managing Victoria’s Homeless Persons’ Legal Clinic, and the impact the law can have on society.
And so, after searching my soul, I joined the academe. Read on…
I started as a Lecturer at the Deakin University Law School in October, and teach legal skills and tax (but that’s OK). My research interests have been shaped by my experiences working with marginalised and disadvantaged clients, and my research focuses on poverty law, social justice and human rights.
My new colleagues have been really supportive and engaged, and as a newish dad, it’s fantastic having a more flexible workplace. I love the freedom to investigate any legal issues that come up – rather than responding to government inquiries or media cycles, I can be proactive in my research and writing. I’ve had pieces on high-profile blogs (see The Conversation and Right Now), agreed to write policy documents for terrific organisations like Homelessness Australia and Youthlaw (whose work I can now support while gathering data and ideas for august journals), and am starting to prepare journal articles on my areas of interest.
But there’s so much to learn! So many questions!
How do you improve your chances of getting published, especially when we’re competing with experienced researchers? Where do you secure research funding? How do you make sure that your research has impact, and that you can create change?
Am I the only person who asks these questions?
I suspect the answer is a resounding ‘No’. There are great resources out there – particular favourites are the Thesis Whisperer and Research Whisperer blogs, covering simple and important ideas like making time for research and Research Grant Applications 101.
But nothing beats meeting people in similar situations, or people who have been there before. My colleagues at Deakin have been great; I’ve strengthened relationships with academics in other law schools in my own socially-awkward way. But I think there must be a way for early career researchers in law to build closer networks, for professional collaborations and (more importantly) emotional support.
So, folks, what’s out there? What works for you? Or do we need something new to strengthen our networks?
*Credit Neal Preston at Corbis.