Describe your background.
I’m from a small village in Derbyshire, a county in the East Midlands of England, and don’t live far from the house I grew up in. My parents are both from Birmingham, but moved to Derbyshire just before they had me. I lived in the northern city of Sheffield as an undergraduate, and in Phoenix, Arizona, in 2017. Other than that, I have not moved around much. I’m lucky to live somewhere so well connected by main roads, but also with such easy access to the countryside.
What is your academic/professional history?
I studied law for an undergraduate degree at the University of Sheffield, but upon graduation I pursued a career in teaching. I knew that I would return to the law at some point, so I decided to get admitted to the bar in New York whilst studying at the University of Derby for my Postgraduate Certificate in Primary Education with a specialization in science. I taught in a variety of schools, including the school I attended myself as a child and a small village school in the Peaks which had years 2, 3 and 4 in the same classroom. In 2016, I reduced my teaching to part-time and enrolled at Nottingham Trent University to pursue an LLM in Human Rights and Justice.
Nottingham Law School has a very active pro bono community and I became heavily involved in this. I represented clients at social security tribunals, advised on housing and employment issues, investigated a case as part of the Miscarriages of Justice Project and ran classes at local high schools on the legal ramifications of cyberbullying and sexting. Through this community at NLS, I interacted with the Amicus charity, which sends volunteers to assist capital defense lawyers across the US. It was thanks to Amicus that I spent the majority of 2017 gaining valuable experience at a capital defense office in Arizona.
I am now at Birmingham City University where I am in the second year of my doctorate studies and also teach criminal law.
How would you describe your job (or research project) to other people?
There is now an established body of science which acknowledges that human brains continue to develop and restructure throughout adolescence and into the third decade of life. The region responsible for decision-making develops last and is the area which differs the most with age. Therefore, questions can be asked about what this means for the criminal culpability of young people. My research aims to discover whether this brain science is playing any role in US state legislation which is regulating young people’s contact with the adult criminal justice system. Specifically, my research investigates two areas of law: bright-line age limits for juvenile court jurisdiction and state transfer or waiver laws which permit a juvenile to be tried in an adult court.
Why did you want to work at the Law Library?
My Ph.D. supervisor, Dr. Sarah Cooper, and my colleague, Amelia Shooter, had both previously studied at the Law Library and spoken incredibly highly of their experiences. They impressed upon me how generous the librarians and staff at the Library are and how spending time here would make me a better researcher. Not only does the Library have an unprecedented catalog, but it is a unique legal environment with experts from around the globe. In addition to this, as an almost life-long student, I was really looking forward to studying in such a scholarly environment amongst like-minded individuals.
What is the most interesting fact you’ve learned about the Law Library of Congress?
How available it is to the public! I’m really impressed by the accessibility of the Library. I love how any member of the public can phone up and speak to a law librarian and receive a detailed response to their inquiry.
What’s something most of your colleagues do not know about you?
Most people don’t realise that I rely pretty heavily on lip reading because I’m hearing impaired. This can make group settings, like networking events, really challenging and I think people are surprised that I seem so reserved in these environments when I’m usually so chatty. I also have a qualification in British Sign Language, but I don’t use it in day-to-day life.