This article was edited by SPRITE+ Research Associate Dmitry Dereshev, with responses and edits from Professor of Law Jill Marshall.
The spotlight today is on Jill Marshall – Professor of Law at the Royal Holloway University of London, and a SPRITE+ member. Some of Jill’s latest publications include:
How would you describe your job to a 12-year-old?
I look at why we have law at all and how it can affect everyone in the world being able to live a good life. What is the point of having laws in place, and what does it mean to say we have human rights? I communicate this by writing books and shorter pieces, working on projects, and teaching university students.
Could you describe what you do during a typical workday?
Each day takes a different routine. I like to work in blocks of time with a few hours for reading, taking notes, writing my own views and thoughts down, and editing those. There is often a long list and many emails to get through! On top of research work, I spend a few hours preparing for teaching, including preparing reading lists, writing seminar questions, delivering lectures and seminars.
I also organize research events and travel overseas to give talks and presentations (COVID19 permitting), so some days may involve contacting others, arranging diaries and planning or doing the travelling. It is definitely more than a 9 to 5 job, but flexible with quite a bit of autonomy. Out of term time, there is usually more time devoted to reading and writing.
Could you describe a challenging project that you’ve recently worked on?
I’ve been working with researchers and academics in Kampala, Uganda on a Global Challenges Research Fund networking grant. We organised workshops at the University of Makerere, and a virtual writing retreat to inform International law with the voices of survivors of conflict-related sexual violence to put their lived experiences at the heart of the project. It is tricky logistically organizing events with partners overseas with multiple participants flying in from other countries too, especially just before and during the pandemic. We have published our website recently and it is wonderful to see how the project has come together with survivors at its core and an artist’s depiction of their testimonies.
What training/experience did you have at the start of your career?
I am a fully qualified solicitor as well as a full-time law academic and Professor. I studied for a Law degree, LLB Honours, for four years (Queen's University Belfast), followed by a one year Law diploma to enable me to practise as a trainee solicitor for 2 years on the job in a large International law firm. I practised for about 8 years in total full-time, after that retaining my practising certificate, and have worked in practice on an ad hoc basis since. I studied full-time for a Masters degree (University College London) and undertook a full-time PhD for 3 years (Queen Mary University of London).
How did you get into your current role?
I left private legal practice to do my PhD at Queen Mary University of London. I was appointed there as a Lecturer, then a Senior Lecturer, and in 2013 I became a Professor at the University of Leicester. I came to Royal Holloway University of London in 2017 where I work in the School of Law and Social Sciences as a Professor of Law.
What do you wish you'd known when you started your career?
That you aren’t supposed to know everything and when something is unclear, always ask for more explanation. I am pretty sure I did do this, but I wish I’d known how much people were bluffing in their answers or others pretending to know when they didn’t! Also, it is good to have a few trusted mentors to rely on.
What would you recommend to people who want to follow in your footsteps?
Explore and take opportunities when they arise, being as prepared as you can so you take these when they suddenly appear. Work hard and try to find a niche while remaining adaptable.
What troubles did you have progressing through your career?
It is a sad fact that sometimes people’s views aren’t taken seriously enough in the workplace; this can be especially the case when they look really young and are female and I am sure this is also often the case when they are not white. This is very disappointing. Also, often certain viewpoints go in and out of fashion in academia but it is important to remain clear on your own perspectives. Try to see the positives and find supportive friends.
What stereotypes would you like to dispel about your job or industry?
In terms of law, that law is straightforwardly what is written in a piece of legislation. In terms of being a lawyer, that it is glamorous. In terms of being a Law Professor, that you have much power!
How would you describe your research or business interest in relation to SPRITE+?
My research explores the role law plays in regulating who we are, our identities and our freedoms. Artificial intelligence and digitalization are major developments in so many ways to this work. My expertise complements that of engineers, computer scientists, and others to probe the ethical and moral boundaries of what should be legally permitted or protected, to factor in social and global justice and equality, and to think how digital developments are changing our ways of living.
How do you hope to benefit from working with SPRITE+ network?
I would love to explore more how our identities and lives are changing because of IT and digital technologies, so the law can keep up and legal philosophy can play more of a role. It would be good to explore possibilities to work with others in the network on relevant projects.
Which of the SPRITE+ Challenge Themes can you relate to from the job that you do? How does it impact your role?
I can relate across the themes but particularly Digital Technologies and Change, and Digital Technologies, Power and Control in considering issues of identity and freedom, changing and improving society to prevent injustices; law’s coercive and regulatory power.
Call for Events is now open! We're supporting Members and Expert Fellows to lead activities that explore aspects of TIPS in the Digital Economy. We will help to organise the activity with up to £5,000 to cover the associated costs.