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:

Emma-Jane Harris

Team: Public Law and Law in Wales

Degree: Law LLB; Law LLM; Global Challenges MA

Previous work experience: As a Hillary Rodham Clinton Global Challenges Scholar my research focused on climate change and its disproportionate impacts on women and children in developing countries. Alongside my research, I undertook an internship with Greenpeace International’s legal unit conducting research on strategic climate litigation and loss and damages for climate change. I benefited from mentorship and in person meetings with Secretary Clinton and last month, I had the privilege of participating in the Future Generations Leadership Conference at Swansea University with Secretary Clinton and President Bill Clinton.

During the Covid-19 pandemic I volunteered at the Rhymney Valley Food Bank and provided 3,000 emergency food parcels to individuals in crisis in 2020-21. Throughout my legal studies, I balanced a part time job as a manager in retail.

Project: I am currently working on the autonomy in aviation project, and I will be moving onto a Wales specific project in the new year. I am also responsible for corporate Welsh matters on advancing the Law Commission’s relationship with Welsh Government and the Senedd.

What are your future plans? My short-term plans include completing the Bar Practice Course and qualifying as a barrister. In the longer term, I am interested in working in Welsh Government.

Tell us about a recent piece of work: Recently, I helped in the preparation and organisation of the Wales Advisory Committee meeting and conducted research on a potential future Wales specific project. I have also been supporting the aviation team ahead of our consultation paper release including providing a research memo on trespass and nuisance of aircraft in the context of drones and VTOLs.

Why would you recommend working at the Commission? You’re on the frontline of law reform and you’re able to make a real impact in your early career. The projects we produce have a huge impact on people’s lives and it’s a real privilege to have an input in the important work we do. Usually, a Lawyer and a Research Assistant will be assigned to a project which means you get a lot of input on the project. You’ll also benefit from frequent feedback on your work which is invaluable in improving your legal research and written skills. The Law Commission is widely regarded by chambers and law firms and there are frequent opportunities to Marshall the Chair. It’s also a great place to work if you’re not sure what you want to do because of the exposure it provides and its intersection between law and government.

Best thing about working at the Law Commission: The people! I am in constant awe of the level of talent and output of the team around me. I feel very privileged to be a part of my team and have an input on some of the incredible work we do. The Law Commission is a very friendly and social environment, and this extends not only from the Research Assistants and the lawyers but the commissioners and the Chair too!

How did you hear about the job? The first time I heard about the Research Assistant role was during my first year at university during a guest lecture. But it was not until I learnt of the Commission’s review into coal tip safety in Wales and subsequently researching the Research Assistant role that I discovered it was a good fit for me.

How did you find the application process? The application process can feel demanding, especially when you’re studying full time and balancing part time work. It took me three attempts until I was successful. It’s a competitive position, but if you persevere it will pay off! Initially I was worried about the written test, but I actually found the test enjoyable, and it reflects some of the work we do at the Commission. My top tips for applicants are:

  1. Allocate enough time for the initial application stage. The Law Commission has a lot of applications and a small percentage make it past the initial application stage to the interview stage.
  2. Use the STAR method and really emphasise on the actions you took and the results (for yourself and the team/business).
  3. Use plain English and avoid spelling and grammar mistakes. This is particularly important as it reflects how the Law Commission produces reports.
  4. Learn from my mistakes and use the application guide. It will help you get a sense of what to include in your initial application. If you are selected for an interview, I found going back to the job description and civil service behaviours was very helpful in preparing for the interview.
  5. Do not fret about the written test. There are no trick questions, and you have plenty of time to complete the test at your own pace.
  6. If you get the chance to speak to a current Research Assistant, even if it’s a ten minute phone call, do it! Please don’t feel shy, we are very friendly and haven’t long gone through the process ourselves so we’re more than happy to give an insight into the role.
  7. Don’t compare yourself to any of the current Research Assistants’ biographies! The Law Commission is full of a diverse range of people with different backgrounds. Instead, focus on what is unique from you experience, what you’ve learn from your experience and how you can utilise you experience as a Research Assistant.

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.

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!

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.