This academic year we appointed Dr Sally Adams as our first Lecturer in Legal Practice, Law Clinics and the SQE (to cite the full title, which shows the breadth and depth of this exciting new role).
In the Q & A below, Sally speaks about her prior experience, and reflects on her ambitions in the new role.
You’re joining the Law department as the first Lecturer in Legal Practice, with special responsibility for Law Clinics and the SQE, a particularly wide-ranging and ambitious role. Tell us a little bit about how the role appealed to you, and specific elements of your professional and research experience that you’re seeking to bring to Goldsmiths in performing this role?
I was excited by the opportunity to join Goldsmiths’ Law department. As Goldsmiths’ law degrees have been designed from the outset with a focus on experiential learning and an eye to the SQE, the Lecturer in Legal Practice role seemed a perfect fit with both Goldsmiths’ approach and my background and interests.
Where did you work, and where did you study, before joining Goldsmiths?
For the past year, I have been a visiting lecturer at the University of Law teaching law and sociology to undergraduates.
In 2019 I completed a PhD in Law at King’s College London. My thesis considered how immigration law regulating high-skilled migration to the UK informed and was informed by mainstream migration narratives and how, in turn, these narratives contributed to highly skilled migrants’ identity formation.
Before starting my PhD, I was a solicitor in practice. I completed my training contract at a legal aid firm in Newcastle upon Tyne and stayed with the firm post-qualification to specialise in immigration law. I subsequently joined the Immigration Department at London firm Kingsley Napley where I worked for some ten years, initially as a solicitor and then as a partner.
The Department of Law is very passionate about connecting legal theory with legal practice. What are the key challenges and opportunities in doing that?
In my experience of legal practice, law was understood almost exclusively as an instrument or tool to be used to achieve client objectives. In the academy however this instrumental view of law is but one of many ways to conceptualise law. Nevertheless, the practice of law and academic law or legal theory are closely connected. Indeed, the links and tensions between theory and practice and the extent to which one informs the other was something that I only appreciated fully when undertaking my doctoral research.
Integrating theory and practice is challenging. Concepts of morality for example may seem far removed from litigating a claim in negligence. However, by studying legal theory alongside aspects of practice, that is, by ‘doing’ law with reference to contemporary real-life issues, not only helps to highlight the connections and ruptures between specific laws and their theoretical underpinnings but also helps to encourage students to interrogate commonplace legal and social assumptions and practices.
What would you advise students joining Law School right now? How can they strike a good balance between pursuing academic excellence, on the one hand, and building a solid CV, demonstrating close engagement with the external world, on the other?
There is no right answer to this. We each have strengths and weaknesses, different needs and priorities and competing demands on our time. Noting that there is no single approach to studying law, I think students should understand what they most want to achieve during their time at Goldsmiths and try to allocate their time accordingly. This should not be a one-off exercise but rather an on-going conversation between students and staff in recognition that students’ focus and aims and therefore the balance of their activities can and undoubtedly will change over time.
Goldsmiths Law takes a very proactive approach to the SQE, embedding some preparation for this radically different new examination for qualifying as a solicitor into the degree. This includes a Year 3 specialist module, SQE2 Practical Legal Skills in Context, that you’ll be leading on. Tell us about your plans for this module.
The SQE 2 module will not stand alone but will build on the substantive and practical skills that students will have already developed during their time at Goldsmiths. My aim is for the module to support students in developing some of the key skills and know-how that lawyers need to succeed in their professional lives. The module’s content and methods of assessment will be closely aligned to those of the SQE 2 itself to enable students to prepare for the real thing. The emphasis will be very much on ‘doing law’: students will practise their skills – client interviewing, legal drafting, case analysis and so on – with reference to scenarios similar to those encountered in practice.
More broadly, what are you looking forward to the most being at Goldsmiths?
I am really looking forward to engaging with students and members of the department to both support and learn from them. Although I enjoyed teaching online last year, perhaps more than I expected, it will be good to be back in the classroom face to face.
What hobbies are you leaning into?
After 18 months of intermittent lockdowns, I am tentatively rediscovering London’s cultural riches. I have also just started a wine tasting course so hope to be able to distinguish between red and black fruit aromas by the end of the year.
Other than that, I enjoy walking – both hiking across fields with the dog and strolling around unfamiliar parts of London and other cities.