1) Alma mater?
I studied LLB Law and Politics at Birmingham University, and also did my PhD there – Birmingham is an amazing city and I loved living there. Before that, I went to a comprehensive school in Peterborough that dreamed of attaining ‘bog standard’ status – so good they knocked it down and built an Aldi on it.
2) Who inspires you?
I’m not sure I have a legal/academic hero. The person who inspires me most is my wife Natalie – super-smart, compassionate, and really committed to what she does (mental health provision), she always makes brave decisions and never gives up in anything she sets her mind to.
3) What made you want to pursue a career in law?
My school careers adviser suggested that I should be a postman. I had not really ever met a lawyer before I applied to University - my dad was a welder, so no connections there. I think that law seemed like an area where the sociology I was interested in was made practical and real, plus I love books, so the long reading lists were a plus-point.
4) Did you take the traditional path or did you have a career before law?
Operating the 'Fry-O-Lator' in Burger King doesn't count as a 'career before law', does it? I had the LPC/training contract route sorted at the end of my degree, but decided to take a year out to do an LLM based on my final-year criminology coursework topic. The LLM became a PhD, which became a career in academia, and the rest is history.
5) Career highlight?
First times are always highlights - my first publication, my first PhD student to graduate. Maybe it was when I got offered my first 'proper' job - a 12-month contract to teach criminology at Reading, having had many unsuccessful job applications and knock-backs along the way. Fifteen years later, I am still here, still waiting for those 12 months to be up so I can kick back.
6) Legal journey low point?
There have been times when the stress and workload of being an academic have been too much and I have struggled to cope. At one point I was hiding in the garage at home having panic attacks, and ended up in therapy. It is important to seek help when we need it and to talk to other people about our well-being, both for our own sake, and to let them know that it is OK and normal to not be OK sometimes.
7) Best thing about your job?
When people you have tried to help go on to have success in their career. Mentoring junior colleagues is always a pleasure, and their victories and development are a source of real joy. And of course, when students go on to achieve success, it is great to see, especially when it is someone who maybe thought that they couldn't do it. One of my former students is now an author of a textbook on Criminal Law!
8) A Significant career achievement?
I got sick of researching disasters and deaths at work after about ten years and decided to write a 'silly' paper about the complete opposite - stupid news stories about wearing goggles for playing conkers, that sort of thing. It just seemed to tap into the mood of the time (2009), and ended up being my most popular article, as well as helping to shape law reform and government policy.
9) What would you be doing now if a career in law was not an option?
Maybe I would have ended up as a postman after all - because I always deliver. The problem is that I do actually prefer wearing trousers to shorts in the winter. My wife reckons I might make a good therapist...tell me, how does that make you feel?
10) A piece of advice for our students?
I was once asked for the secret to my 'success'. The only answer I had was - 'I just kept turning up'. It is an important but underrated skill - to be around, to go to things, to chip in, and to just turn up and sit down at work each day and do a bit more. Lots of small steps will take you a long way. The other thing is - take opportunities to work with people who are smarter and better than you. It has always worked for me.