The Academic Corner: meet Professor David Collins

LLB3 student Teodora Cordarov quizzes Professor David Collins to find out more about how he started in law and what keeps him interested in his role at City….

Senior Lecturer David Collins

Professor David Collins

Why did you choose to study Law?

I choose to study law because it seemed interesting to me, it seemed to have a wide number of applications to other fields and I also felt that it would improve my chances for the employment in the future.

Why this specific area of law?

I stumbled upon International Economic Law by accident when I was doing my masters degree and I found it fascinating. I also thought that as an academic, it possibly had significant potential to grow and to be a field in which research, writing and teaching could be done.

Is there anyone who has inspired you?

When I did my LLM, one of my tutors at St Hugh’s College, his name was Joshua Getzler, he made me realise that an academic career would be a really rewarding one and I think that was the first time when I started to think that it would be the type of profession that would be suited to me.

Do you ever have a writer’s block when you are starting a new book project?

No, that is one of my greatest abilities, I think I write very easily, in fact if anything I am often more likely to write and then realise that probably was not that good after it has been written!

What were the biggest challenges during your studies and first years of your career?

I think the biggest challenge that I had in my studies was coming to terms with how I would be assessed in my exams. I think I had difficulty relating what I was learning to the way I perceive that I would be assessed. I think in that sense I really did not know how or what to study that well.

In my career it was the feeling of being pulled in all different directions, doing both research and teaching. The bureaucracy of academia has become incredibly onerous in the last few years and I think it is especially difficult on young academics now.

Have you ever thought of giving up law and pursuing a different career?

I would like to be a novelist. I was very interested in writing novels, I just think I do not have a talent! When I tried to write novels it did not come easily to me as it did with writing the law books.

What is your key advice for students and young professionals wishing to pursue a career in law?

My advice for students seeking to practice law would be to do as well as you can in your studies, as well as leaving time for extra curricular activities in order to enhance your CV. There are so many activities out there that students can get involved with, and because of the internet, it is very easy to find information about fellowships and internships.

What is your advice for those students wishing to enter academia?

Write as much as possible. I would tell to people pursuing their PhD or Master’s to try to do case comments and book reviews especially. A lot of law journals are desperate for book reviews.

Try to write as much as possible. And the other thing that is very important, especially now, is to have a very active presence online; so tweeting, blogging and having well developed profiles on things such as SSRN and academia.edu.

Do you enjoy being a professor?

Yes, I really do – I am very lucky to have a job that I really enjoy and am well suited to. I feel doubly lucky because I did not decide to become a professor until quite a bit later on.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of being a professor?

One of the greatest advantages, which is perhaps less prominent now, is having more free time than practising lawyers do, especially the time for reading books, writing and going to conferences which is amazing.

However, I think that job has changed over the years and that we have more demands now.

One of the drawbacks of this profession is that even though I do have more free time than practising lawyers I feel the sense that I am kind of always working, even on the weekends because I am always thinking about something I should write or that I should be reading. Maybe I do not get to enjoy my downtime as much as others. Academics really have to always be switched on.

Do you think there are opportunities for mature students to pursue a career in law and do you think there are any advantages of having life experience before beginning studies in law?

Yes, very much so and I have observed a number of mature students at City who have in fact gone into law and succeeded in it so I do not think that’s a problem. Law is very much a profession where mature students can excel. I think it is difficult to go through the conventional route of training contract and then first year associate because they are often designed for students coming from a particular stream, so that model maybe needs to be tweaked a little. But I think mature students can often have more insight to some areas than young people, and firms want that kind of insight.

Do you see yourself being a professor until retirement or you think you might explore a different career?

I think I would always stay a professor, although changing to part-time may be an option in the future. I can imagine doing that if I got interesting consulting contracts or if I possibly became an arbitrator. An interesting book contract may also sway me, but I could not imagine completely giving it up. I think that I will always do some teaching.

What is your proudest achievement?

I think maybe what I have done with the Start-Ed legal advice clinic, that’s really helped a lot of people and students are really enjoying it. However on a personal note, my publications and books are certainly up there as being my proudest achievements. Seeing your first book in print is pretty thrilling.

If you would like to share, is there any unusual fact about you?

What? No telescope?

What? No telescope?

I like reading literature and I like books a lot. I still sometimes think about writing that novel! And I kind of think one of my projects that I would like to do at Law School is to have a book club, non law book club. I always like making time for reading literature and I believe that it is important way to relax. It also helps me organise my thoughts.

Also, I like astronomy and I am a bit disappointed that City University does not have an astronomy department and I think that it would be really nice if we have a telescope on the roof like some other institutions do.

Favourite book?

The novel called “The Collector of Lost Things” by Jeremy Page.

Favourite movie?

Dirty Harry, from 1971,movie with Clint Eastwood about homicide detective pursuing a psychopath killer.

Has there been any legislation that has particularly disappointed you?

I think there are some local by laws in Islington that are problematic, particularly parking regulations which have led to a decline in the retail industry in the Islington area. Too strict!

What is the biggest change you would like to see in the law industry?

Author Teodora

Author Teodora

I think it would be fantastic if there was a Global investment treaty, sort of like the World Trade Organisation (WTO) but governing for the foreign investment. I believe this treaty would really help consolidate the discipline between international economic law. It would probably be in the best interest of the global economy too.

Thanks to Teodora for this interesting interview with Professor Collins. Watch out for his first novel!

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