Every year, our research assistants come from all areas and backgrounds. Find out about some of this year’s intake, and what they think about the job, below:

Marianne Holbrook

Team: Criminal Law

Degree: LLB with year abroad; MSc International Development and African Studies.

University: Durham University (LLB); University of Edinburgh (MSc).

Previous work experience: I interned at the UN and volunteered with several NGOs and public interest litigation organisations in South Africa. I later completed a judicial clerkship at the Constitutional Court of South Africa and worked as a legal researcher for a South African High Court judge. Before joining the Law Commission, I worked at a London law firm specialising in human rights, asylum and immigration law.

Project: Contempt of Court.

What are your future plans? I’d like to continue working in legal research and / or international development.

Tell us about a recent piece of work: Over the last few weeks I have been drafting a chapter for our Consultation Paper. This involved lots of research and writing. Working together with my line manager to shape the chapter was a great learning opportunity which has certainly improved my writing style. The team will be discussing the policy issues that arise in the chapter in the coming weeks after which I will assist in preparing the chapter for publication.

Why would you recommend working at the Commission? I love my job. I don’t know many people who can say that. The culture is incredible. People really respect work/life balance and are kind and supportive. Hybrid working and flexi-hours mean you can make your job work for you. This work is also incredibly satisfying because you know it makes a difference. There is ample opportunity to take on responsibilities and challenge yourself. The Law Commission is a unique place to learn and develop as a young lawyer and, as an organisation widely held in high esteem, the Commission is a great bridge to future opportunities.

Best thing about working at the Law Commission: I personally love handling “raw” law. I love doing legal research, drafting, having the time to think about legal problems, turning ideas over within the team, thinking again, researching some more, revising the draft. This job is quite different in nature and pace from my previous work in legal practice, where I felt stressed most of the time and was very far removed from any actual law. I think it’s quite rare in many “law” jobs to have this kind of time to review the law, think critically, and develop ideas.

How did you hear about the job? One of my undergraduate degree assessments was to respond to a Law Commission Consultation Paper, proposing law reform solutions. I became more and more convinced that joining the Commission was an incredibly unique opportunity when researching the research assistant role and going through the application process.

How did you find the application process? I found the application process quite intense. There are several stages to it, which means the whole process takes several months. And each stage is quite challenging. That said, because the process is so thorough, I felt confident that I had been given sufficient opportunities to display different skills and competencies, which you don’t always get in application processes. There is very helpful material (the “Applicant Guide”, CV template, and videos with interview tips) published on the Commission’s website which made the process clear and allowed me to focus on the content of my application.

Tips for applicants: This is a fiendishly competitive application process. This means be prepared (this is not one you can “wing”). It also means you may not be offered the role the first time you apply. I applied multiple times before I was offered the position and I know this is also true for some of my colleagues. My advice is to stay motivated, don’t be disheartened if you are not made an offer immediately, and come back stronger in the next recruitment cycle! (the Commission recruits annually). It’s a way to prove to the interview panel that you really care about law reform, and it’s an opportunity to build on your skills and experience in the meantime. When I wasn’t made an offer, I went to South Africa and completed a judicial clerkship where I happened to end up working on a big contempt of court judgment – I have no doubt that this is what clinched it for me when I came to apply for the criminal law team’s contempt of court project.

The competitiveness of the process also means you can be quite proud of yourself when you do get the job! Perseverance pays off.

Rachel Hughes

Team: Criminal Law

Degree: BA Law; BCL

University: University of Cambridge (BA); University of Oxford (BCL)

Previous work experience: At university I did some work helping out with admissions, and I had an internship with a LawTech start-up at the end of my second year. After university I worked for a year as a Judicial Assistant at the Court of Appeal.

Project: Evidence in sexual offences

What are your future plans? I hope to be a barrister – I’m applying for pupillage this year, so fingers crossed!

Tell us about a recent piece of work: I recently drafted a memo summarising the output of research into the impact of myths and misconceptions about sexual offences on police decision making. I have also been drafting sections of our upcoming Consultation Paper, and recently led a policy meeting to discuss the team’s provisional views based on the research that I had done.

Why would you recommend working at the Commission? It’s very easy to be motivated and care about the work, because you know that everything you do will influence the decisions made (and may end up in a publication). The opportunity to form a view based on your own research and then try to justify to the rest of the team why your ideas should be taken forward is so valuable for developing skills, and doesn’t arise that often in other jobs! One of the great things about the Law Commission is that everybody is very willing to consider a range of views and to let RAs make themselves heard. Also it probably goes without saying that having an input into policy decisions and the future development of the law is very exciting!

Best thing about working at the Law Commission: There are so many great things about the job but one of the best is how supportive everyone is. The environment is so welcoming and encouraging that it’s a very nice workplace to come to every day. 

How did you hear about the job? I was aware of the Law Commission in general during my undergraduate degree through lecturers talking about proposals for reform. Several of my supervisors had been Research Assistants themselves and spoken really positively about it, so it’s been in the back of my mind for the last few years!

How did you find the application process? I found the application process less stressful than I thought I would – there’s a lot more material which helps out than for some other applications I’ve done. The Guide for Applicants, videos with interview tips and the online event were all really helpful and meant that I wasn’t worried about the small things in an application and could focus on my answers.

Tips for applicants: As obvious as it sounds, really make sure that you know why you want to do the job and what you’re hoping to get out of it in terms of developing your skills. Then make sure that comes through in your application – enthusiasm for the law, the role and legal reform in general will really help.

Luke Broadway

Team: Commercial and Common Law

Degree: Law LLB

University: University of Exeter

Previous work experience: Across the years I’ve taken part in various vacation schemes, mini-pupillages, and pro-bono programmes. I have also assisted on both paid and unpaid research projects. Outside of law I have seven years’ worth of hospitality experience, including a couple of full-time managerial positions.

Project: Digital Assets

What are your future plans? My aim is to qualify as a barrister, and I will be starting the bar course in September 2023.

Tell us about a recent piece of work: I recently contributed to the Call for Evidence on Decentralised Autonomous Organisations. This is a very exciting area of law, making it particularly rewarding to be so involved in the writing and publication process.

Why would you recommend working at the Commission? Personally, I can think of three key reasons. Firstly, work at the Law Commission provides an entirely unique opportunity to contribute to the creation of law. It is fascinating to go from studying the law to being actively involved in its reform. Secondly, the Law Commission’s proposals are very much shaped by consultation feedback, and the process of obtaining this feedback offers a great chance for stakeholder engagement. In the commercial and common law team, for example, we regularly discuss our proposals with sector experts, market participants, and practitioners. Hearing how the team’s proposed law reform will function in practice is incredibly interesting. Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, the work is perfect for anyone with an interest in technical law. If you enjoy trying to understand the nuts and bolts of England and Wales law, then this is certainly the role for you!

Best thing about working at the Law Commission: Aside from everyone being incredibly friendly, I think I most enjoy being surrounded by people who are genuinely interested in, and passionate about, law reform. In the commercial and common law team, for example, we will regularly have spontaneous chats about complex areas of law and how they could be improved. Aside from being invaluable in developing a broad understanding of commercial law, these chats make for an intellectually stimulating work environment.

How did you hear about the job? I took a law reform module during my undergraduate studies that served as a great introduction to the Law Commission’s reform process. I was later taught by a former research assistant on a graduate course, and she was kind enough to meet with me to chat through the role.

How did you find the application process? One of the benefits of the application process is that it is quite spread out, so there is plenty of time between stages. This was helpful in allowing me to prepare for each stage without having to cram! On this note, it’s important to be aware that the written component of the application is quite lengthy, so make sure you give yourself enough time to work on it. I worked on the written stage over the course of a couple of weeks, regularly proofing and revising until I was happy. The written test, which comes later, is an interesting opportunity to obtain exposure to a new area of law. It is useful to note that this isn’t an arbitrary exercise added in to make life difficult – it is actually quite reflective of how work at the Law Commission can be. It is not uncommon to be asked to research an area of law on which you have no prior knowledge. Thinking about it like this may help take away some of the pressure!

Tips for applicants: It’s important to bear in mind that the Law Commission’s publications need to be accessible and straightforward to read. As such, being able to write about technical concepts in a clear way is an incredibly important quality for any research assistant. It can be useful to remind yourself of this when writing the application. After all, the written component of the application process is not just an opportunity to discuss your experience, it’s also a chance to show off your writing skills. Aim for well-structured, easy to follow writing that doesn’t use unnecessarily complex words, and you should be fine!

Efa Jones

Team: Public Law and the Law in Wales

Degree: BA Jurisprudence

University: University of Oxford

Previous work experience: During my final year at University, I completed a period of work experience at a sports law firm, which involved learning about several new areas of law (such as competition law and employment law), as well as areas of law that I had already studied (such as contract law and EU law) and applying those principles to the cases the team was working on. I also spent some time shadowing lawyers in the Senedd’s legal department in my final year of school. This is when my interest in devolved law and the interaction between the UK and Welsh governments developed. I also supported the Senedd’s communications team in the lead up to the launch of the first ever ‘Senedd Ieuenctid Cymru/Welsh Youth Parliament’ which allowed me to interact with young people passionate about politics and policy.

Projects: I am currently doing some work for the Contempt of Court project and have done some research for the Autonomy in Aviation project. I am looking forward to joining the Automated Vehicles and Remote Driving team in the new year.

What are your future plans? I am not quite sure yet, but I think I would like to practice as a solicitor in public, administrative and/or criminal law.

Tell us about a recent piece of work: I recently completed a research note for the Contempt of Court project looking at a specific area of contempt and trying to work out what the current law is in that area. It is such a complex area of law that the task involved reading and re-reading the leading practitioner textbook, relevant legislation and exploring the case law to actually determine what the current law is.

Why would you recommend working at the Commission? First, the work we do and the impact it has on people. Secondly, the people who work here. Everyone is so friendly and passionate about law reform. Thirdly, the opportunities it provides for career development.

Best thing about working at the Law Commission:  It is difficult to choose the best thing. I think uniquely for me, one of the best things is being able to use my Welsh language skills in the workplace and the opportunity to work with Welsh government officials on developing the relationship with the Law Commission and the people of Wales.

How did you hear about the job? Through friends at university who told me that the Commission was keen to have applications from law students with Welsh language skills. I had read Law Commission reports as part of the research for my degree, but I did not realise that as a law graduate I would be able to work at the Commission itself! I then watched the central event that had been uploaded on the website to find out more about the role.

How did you find the application process? Long and challenging but a really helpful process. It was the first big job application I had filled out so it really allowed me to reflect on my life experiences, my legal research skills and practice using the STAR method. Just set aside enough time to do it!

Tips for applicants:

  1. Read the guide for applicants thoroughly, and use it step by step as you work through the application form and the following elements of the process.
  2. Read past summaries of reports on the Law Commission website to see how we write and structure our written work.
  3. Have confidence in yourself and your experiences so far.
  4. Show your personality and note down your academic interests on the form.

Poppy Kemp

Team: Property, Family and Trusts Law

Degree: BA Law, LL.M.

University: University of Cambridge (undergrad), University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) (post-grad).

Previous work experience: During my undergrad, I’d undertaken a few mini-pupillages, a vacation scheme, interned at an American NGO and worked as a hostess at a restaurant. Immediately prior to working at the Commission, I was a research assistant to a fair housing law professor at UCLA, interned at an art law non-profit and privately tutored.

Project: Various PFT projects.

What are your future plans? In the long term, I hope to become barrister, but before then, I’d love to go travelling across Japan.

Tell us about a recent piece of work: I recently wrote part of an instruction to Counsel on residential leasehold. Instructions essentially ask Parliamentary Counsel to structure our recommendations into a draft Bill.

Why would you recommend working at the commission? If you’ve always thought about the policy underpinning law and/or are interested in how law is made and politics, working at the Law Commission is right for you. We unpick existing laws, consult on how they can be improved, and create new policy and laws. Our work can affect countless people’s lives and businesses, and passes through Parliament to become law, so you have a front-row seat to the political sphere.

Best thing about working at the Law Commission: There are two amazing features about working at the Law Commission. First, you have so much responsibility early on in your career – your words could form part of reports whose recommendations become law! Second, everyone who works at the Law Commission is genuinely lovely, hardworking and passionate about law reform. It’s a really inspiring place to work.

Where did you hear about the job? One of my undergraduate lecturers was a research assistant at the Law Commission early in her career. She wrote an article on her time here which inspired me to apply.

How did you find the application process? I definitely found it quite long, but the job is worth the hassle! After the interview I was so convinced that I hadn’t got the job that I started applying for others…

Tips for applicants:

For the situational judgment test: Practise! There’s a helpful video I found on the civil service fast-track’s YouTube which explains how to approach these sorts of questions.

For the written portion: (1) follow the STAR (situation, task, action, result) technique religiously – when I first drafted my answers, it became clear that I often missed out the ‘actions’ I took to solve a ‘task’. I think clearly setting out your actions is crucial to demonstrating the particular competencies we are looking for so don’t be like me! (2) Use one example (maybe two at a push) per competency and fully explain it. You’re more likely to nail STAR within tight word limits if you go into lots of detail on one example than minimal detail on lots. (3) Get someone else to read through your answers – a second pair of eyes can help spot mistakes/inconsistencies which you otherwise would not have noticed. Finally (4), use clear, concise English. We publish for a range of audiences, so the writing has to be clear and understandable.