by Mishel Bogatova,
Year 4 LLB student, School of Law, UCLan Cyprus (2021-22)
Part 1 of this article laid down the empirical study of the general expected steps and various milestones of the legal academia route, including pursuing a PhD, continuous professional development, and the importance of publishing one’s work. I have explored the insight offered to me by my interviewees and in Part 2 of the article, attempt to offer them in guide form, relating them to the real steps one could undertake as to get started on this journey.
An important point to consider whether the academic path is the one for you, is how long research may take. Academic research, and generally writing of any kind takes notoriously long, and to rush it may lead to preventable mistakes like missing research, shallow analysis, or simply not quality writing. Therefore, it is generally vital to have personal interest and investment in the research you’re carrying out, as to not grow bored or tired of doing it before it is ever finished. Identifying a research topic can be no easy feat, but if it is something you’re truly interested in and believe it will solve an existing issue or fill an existing gap in the current literature, chances are the research will not grow tedious. Granted, there may not be any ground-breaking discoveries on the daily with academic research, it is important to keep in mind, that if done properly, the research may lead to new perspectives or offer new outlook on solving of pressing social and legal issues. Personally, however, something that I have felt apprehensive about, as someone who finds various unrelated areas of law interesting, was having to pick your research topic early on and have it be your career. However, each one of my lecturers spoke about the freedom an academic has in choosing their topics, approaches, and methodology. There is no issue with widening your research horizons, both in the general scope of your interests and in the narrow sense of each paper, which can be done in the form of interdisciplinary research, where relevant. Interdisciplinary research becomes relevant, where a study requires extensive sources of data beyond traditional legal sources associated with the topic, to allow for more complete contextual analysis of the issue. When just starting out, generally, no one’s asking you to reinvent the wheel. The innovative aspect of one’s ideas is likely to come from years of practice and accumulated expertise in the issues of the chosen field.
In conclusion, here is a summary of steps and tips I have identified from speaking to my interviewees. First and foremost, pursuing a relevant master’s degree and a PhD degree is vital. A step that is often overlooked is finding employment opportunities in your field as a PhD student, to both reimburse costs and start on acquiring relevant work experience. Don’t be scared, like I was, of choosing one topic to research and it being your end-all be-all career. The possibility of being stuck with one thing for the rest of your academic run seems inevitable, but is a stereotype, since you always can and are encouraged to pursue new paths both within and outside your topics of interest. Second, don’t be put off by your missing research skills or relevant work experience – everyone starts somewhere, and excelling in independent research or your university assignments is the first step to acquiring the necessary skills, which will later aid you in finding assistant research positions. Probably one of, if not the most important point to highlight, is ensure you start at least attempting to publish your research contributions as early as you can, even while still finishing undergraduate programmes. Despite rejection being difficult and ever-present in the academic publishing world, it is a vital step for any starting academic to develop an academic profile. To end on a general tip, I have picked up on, is do not be hesitant to ask professionals in the field. If you are interested in projects or research your professors or any academics known to you are running, or you just find their general research topics to match your own, do not be afraid to ask them about the work they are doing currently and whether they would need an assistant. Even your busiest professors will most likely make time to talk to you, and even if they are not in need of any assistance, asking will establish you as someone who is interested enough to take initiative, which always stands out and may result in them keeping you in mind for future projects or even as candidates to be recommended to colleagues. Seen here, most of my interviewees shared, that all were either pursuing or planning to pursue something different within the world of legal studies, before turning to academic work. All have highlighted, that it is natural to switch between different things before settling on one’s career.
Lastly, with this blog piece I’d like to express a special thank you to the UCLan Cyprus Law Blog Team for their work and to my lecturers and interviewees for their valuable insight during our interviews and the years they have taught me, Dr Nasia Hadjigeorgiou, Dr Demetra Loizou, Dr Andreas Marcou and Dr Lida Pitsillidou.