When the first lockdown hit, I was at home, with only two weeks’ worth of clothes to last what ended up being four months. I had headed home at the beginning of the holidays, aiming to go back to Warwick for the final two weeks to finish coursework and prepare for exams. These exams all ended up being online. At the same time, I was waiting for my interview for the Research Assistant post with the Law Commission, a role I had been preparing to apply for since the beginning of second year. This happened online too, in the end, in my parent’s shepherd’s hut at the end of the garden, with me praying the wifi would work.
I was ecstatic when I was offered the job a little while later. I could now prepare to move to London (though who knew when we’d be back in the office?!). Flat-hunting involved a very early train, ten viewings, 30,000 steps and hurrying back onto a train home at 6pm. It was strange moving into such a quiet version of London. Portobello Road Market – which I was used to being crammed with tourists and stands selling anything from vintage clothes to Roman antiques – was almost deserted.
The week before starting, the team (Public Law and Law in Wales) met up for a socially distanced picnic in St James’ Park (which is a minute’s walk from the office – I’m hoping to one day benefit from visiting the pelicans at lunchtime). It was brilliant to finally meet the people I was going to be working with – and learn just how brave London pigeons are when it comes to sandwich theft. This remains the only time I have met the majority of my colleagues in person! The following day, a shiny new laptop arrived at my flat and on Monday, our induction started.
What was extremely exciting about the role was how quickly I started doing in depth legal research. Just over a week in, I was asked to produce a research paper on a possible project into coal tip safety in Wales. A month or so later, the project was confirmed, and it was brilliant to have been a part of it from the beginning. The project is also close to my heart (being Welsh and having grown up hearing the story of Aberfan). We are working towards creating a new regulatory framework for the inspection and maintenance of coal tips.
The role has presented many opportunities to develop useful skills – I certainly write much more quickly than I used to! I have been able to actively participate in meetings with stakeholders, produce many pieces of research and help other teams with proofreading and Welsh translations. There are many opportunities for development – from court marshalling with Sir Nicholas Green (our Chair) to regular “Lunch and Learn” sessions. Everyone at the Commission is extremely helpful and supportive – and there is such a wide breadth of amazing (and very clever) people. I feel extremely lucky that in my first job in London I am surrounded by kindness and encouragement. The fact that, to date, the job has been almost entirely virtual has not at all detracted from this atmosphere.
To anyone who wishes to go to the Bar, gain more experience before pursuing their career as a solicitor, is interested in policy or simply isn’t sure; I cannot recommend this opportunity highly enough. Working towards law reform is extremely rewarding, and at the Law Commission you are gaining skills while making a difference; whether that’s in hate crime, automated vehicles or intermediated securities. Or, of course – in coal tip safety!
There are four teams at the Commission. Criminal; Property, Family and Trusts; Commercial and Common Law; and my own team Public Law and Law in Wales. Each team has a number of extremely exciting and dynamic projects, such as Intimate Images, Weddings or Smart Contracts. Law reform teaches you to look at law in a different way – to examine its consequences and how it is put into practice. You also learn the views of stakeholders who may interact with the law in a way you’d never expected. It’s an extremely valuable perspective to gain.
Applications are open now for the role, and close at 11:55pm on the 31st of January. You can apply here: Law Commission: Research Assistant (Ref:39505) – Civil Service Jobs – GOV.UK
Poppy Jones, WLS alumna