The Secret Behind Durham Law School’s Success – Thom Brooks – S4E12

This week on the Legally Speaking Podcast, our host Robert Hanna speaks to Thom Brooks. 

Thom is an award-winning author, columnist, policy advisor, academic and public speaker. He currently serves as Dean of Durham Law School, one of the UK’s most prestigious undergraduate law departments.

At Durham, he’s led the biggest expansion in the schools’s 50 year history, doubling the academic staff count from 42 to 75. Using data-driven US-style management techniques, he’s shaken up the department to give it a more internationalist outlook and a research remit which aims to be more relevant to wider society.

Alongside his demanding role, he frequently writes in the press, including for the likes of the Daily Telegraph, Guardian, Independent, Times and more. Originally from the United States, his background as a top legal academic and recent migrant has ensured he remains a popular source for public commentary in the fiery UK immigration debate.  He is also President of the Society of Legal Scholars and an Academic Bencher of the Inner Temple.

Topics discussed include:

  • Thom’s career journey prior to becoming Dean of the Durham Law School
  • How he’s shaken up the department with a data-driven & internationalist mindset
  • His work on making the school’s research more relevant to policymaking & society
  • The stark differences between UK and US law schools
  • His expert on the notorious SQE


Rob Hanna (00:00):

Welcome to the Legally Speaking Podcast. I’m your host, Rob Hanna.This week I’m delighted to be joined by Thom Brooks. Thom is an award-winning author, public speaker, policy advisor, the UKs only professor of law and government, president of society of legal scholars and the Dean of Durham law school at Durham university, which is where our producer, Hannah Foley read law. If that wasn’t impressive enough, Thom has held various appointments over the 11 law schools and universities, including Harvard, Yale, Columbia, and Oxford university. Thom has published a number of works, including his award-winning book in 2016 – ‘Becoming British UK Citizenship Examined’. Thom regularly appears in the media, writes for columns for the Daily Telegraph, The Guardian, The Independent, Labour List and The Times. So a very, very warm welcome Thom.

Thom Brooks (00:55):

Oh wow. What else do I have to do after an introduction like that? I’ve just go to not live up to my ability, but thank you very much. Pleasure to be here.

Rob Hanna (01:03):

No it’s an absolute honor to have you on the show before we dive into all your amazing achievements and legal experiences to date, we do have a customary icebreaker question here on the legally speaking podcast, which is on the scale of 1 to 10, 10 being very real. How real would you rate the reality hit series suits in terms of its reality of the law?

Thom Brooks (01:24):

Oh two, yeah not very high.

Rob Hanna (01:35):

Yeah i think two is a fair answer particularly people in the law and practicing in the law. I think just the ability to close out motions in a heartbeat just doesn’t exist. So let’s start at the beginning. Tell us a bit about your family background and upbringing.

Thom Brooks (01:48):

So in, in brief, um, I don’t know, uh, how exceptional, uh, things really were for me. Uh, I was very happy one of five kids to two great parents that ran a bike store. So bicycles mom was a science school teacher. Both had a love of science, both terribly disappointed that none of the five of us got into science ourselves, um, and, uh, very in the United States in New Haven, Connecticut, uh, is the area i’m from. Um, my, the Brookside of my family has been there well most since the 1660s and the other side even earlier. So, uh, parts of being a very, very, uh, American, uh, uh, as it were, I did a music degree as my first thing, but I then got into political and legal philosophy, never had ambition or plans to leave the United States in any kind of long-term sense to some degree it just kind of happened, uh, to summarize that part of my life, uh, in a, in a nutshell.

Thom Brooks (02:54):

And then to some degree kind of fell into a deep kind of love for a long time. Political philosophy that’s where a lot of my stuff is more practice oriented and then yeah. And then opportunities across the pond, um, and make my life, uh, like my peers. So, so my upbringing was, I was not surrounded by lawyers. I wouldn’t say I knew any lawyers or certainly didn’t know them as lawyers and got to know them as neighbors or friends. I didn’t know them, for there legal work and all of it was a bit mystical. I was just fascinated by what is a rights, what are liberties? What are the principles by which someone can be found guilty of a crime, uh, heavily punished it just kind of, and then the issues about what does an immigrant, how do we judge the citizenship? I’m telling you whether you wanted to hear, but that was the kind of stuff that kind of got me over here. And then I, you know, then peeled the onion back and got to see more layers. And here I am Dean of Durham.

Rob Hanna (03:46):

And so you, you touched on it there, but you originally started your academic career lecturing in political thoughts. And then what made you transition into the law?

Thom Brooks (03:55):

There’s lots of talk about disciplinary boundaries about the difference between say, you know, so what is the difference, for example, between a political philosopher in a philosophy department versus a political theorist and a political politics department. Answer seems to be that the philosophers tends to look at issues and people who are still alive. And the people in the politics department tend to study people who have ideas in government who are all dead. So, you know, Hobbs, uh, ‘inaudible’ are rife in the politics side. Then it comes to law and you know, who you had to think about legal philosophy. Well, who are the heroes and heroines of that trade, well, the classics, you know, the good old days, they were in law schools, you know, the oldest law school in America is not far from my hometown Lichfield. Now a museum I want, to recommend listeners to check it out.

Thom Brooks (04:47):

Um, not, Yale, not Harvard, not Columbia Litchfield. Who had classic Stuff about what is law, what is our obligation to the rights of the individual versus the state where you draw the lines and so on and so forth was drawn by folks who are cited by both political theorists and politics departments and, uh, legal philosophers in, in law schools. For me, it’s pretty much interchangeable. It’s pretty much a seamless kind of web, a longer conversation, not much of a difference though. You asked about my coming to the law, whether the gripes I’ve had in my work, especially if working around punishment or around immigration from a philosophical perspective, is there is the thinking about what those principles should be and how it might work in some ideal spaces that my training does a lot of, but of course, we’re also not talking about pie in the sky. We’re talking about things that are real. One of my big criticisms, were was like, people were talking about these things in too abstract that had absolutely no relation to practice. So I’ve been kind of keen to kind of be more practice oriented, uh, as a kind of legal, political, law school background. So being in a law school, it’s been, you know, that was the kind of natural progression for me. And then being dean was another thing on top of that.

Rob Hanna (06:04):

And that’s right. And so you’ve been Dean, um, acting as Dean of Durham law school. One of the top law schools in the world for five years. Tell us more about the strategy behind Durham’s management.

Thom Brooks (06:17):

Well, um, so when I came to Durham, I, uh, when i came to the UK I’d never heard of Durham, so that’s not uncommon for a lot of Americans. It’s still a challenge the university has to be honest about it. And, and trying to do something about it now with an American, trying to make more Americans now that we exist. So I didn’t know about the school until I came to the UK. And then when I kind of took over as it were, um, there was a legacy, many legacies, one that jumped out to me was that it was small, compared to other law schools. So when I joined there might’ve been a hundred or so students cohorts, the staffing grew and a big expansion to the 32 or 33 full-time permanent staff. Harvard’s got six or seven different buildings, housing, um, their offices and stuff in comparison to relatively small compared to others in the UK, which will typically be more 70, 80 staff or more for the big boys and girls in the Russell group and so on.

Thom Brooks (07:20):

And so what’s been different. Wasn’t just, so I inherited that. And also a department that was very traditional in terms of focus on the qualifying law degree for England and Wales. And there were other bits and bobs that were there too are doing incredibly well and picking various, great international lawyers, creative stuff that’s not on the part of our acuity. So that was wonderful, but very, how do I call this very British academic department, uh, by which, I mean, I don’t say pop till they feel uncomfortable with itself. That is untrue in a gross mis-characterization, but not as outward facing, let’s just say as law schools and other countries like mine. So I warned people if they had an American being as the Dean, I was going to act like an American Dean, and I was not going to sit in my office where I am now, I was going to be out and about I was going to go meet people.

Thom Brooks (08:14):

I was gonna meet firms and chambers and all the rest of it. I was going to be in there and I was going to take employability to new heights. What are people looking for and what are they not looking for? What is the success rates that we actually have? Not that we think we’ve got because it warrants two conversations. What’s the data on, I was data driven on this and then thinking through also what the gaps and opportunities were. So kind of a final point if I can. So when I started getting were small, their decision was made by the university executive that did not involve my input to double the school in terms of the staff, academic staff or faculty, if the Americans listening. So the Americans called academic staff faculty, so I’m doing some cross cultural communication. And so, wow. So hiring 30, 35 people and, you know, more or less in five, five or so years.

Thom Brooks (09:06):

Well, no, one’s doing that. So, uh, how does that look? You know, Yale ain’t doing that, Columbia ain’t doing that, I know I was there, uh, you know, they don’t do this kind of stuff. So, so then you get a chance to remake a department. And so they’re kind of just to kind of finally at last 10 minutes later, answer your question. The strategy was to look at where our strengths were that were strategic and expand more than that. So we, I saw quickly that commercial corporate law is the thing that not all schools have much of. We had a big number. We were making, we made it our biggest group. It’s where most of our students were most successful. I mean, in students work in the commercial corporate institute area. So we’re going to kind of be more gung ho about taking it to a new level.

Thom Brooks (09:51):

There’s other things that we should and can do as well. I mean, came across to me very clearly that a lot of law firms were doing increasing amounts of work and setting up offices or partnerships, et cetera, in East Asia, I’m talking China, I’m talking Singapore and Malaysia, and then it came up in conversation. So what does it mean to be a better school? What does it mean to have a good strategy? What does it mean? What does, what are the gaps other than just kind of being really super good at something, you know, how we got one more, awesome human rights lawyer than you, or what is this, you know, what does this mean? Where do you go, how do you direct yourself? Then I saw that Chinese law was, uh, was a particular thing to read that. Something at the top 20 law schools, not necessarily all the top 100 of the top 20 this is the feature that they’ve got. This is the feature that all the top firms are going to do more work here. And that was kind of a winner. And it kind of a broader global legal education, not just being pretty narrow, qualified reading in England and Wales is great. You’ve got to do it. That’s essential but doing that, not enough. That’s a strategy. That’s not enough being more global.

Rob Hanna (11:01):

Love it, love it. Durham law school has been ranked as third in the UK for world-leading research impact. I think fifth in the complete university guide in 2020 in the top 50 world university rankings by subjects in 2021. So all of these things are massive, right? And I think as a Dean of Durham law school, you lead and you touched on the recruitment part, there you lead on the biggest growth in the schools, 50 year history, increasing academic staff, I believe from 42 to 75 building new critical mass and key areas and really improving the school’s research, which you touched on. Can you just tell us a bit more about that in particular? Because I think that’s a really important point.

Thom Brooks (11:39):

So what does it mean to have great research? What does it mean to be highly regarded in these things other than kind of spending sufficient amounts of time, uh, developing new thoughts, uh, that someone publishes somewhere. Part of it is having kind of some architecture having structures in place. So mentoring of all staff, including me, I have a research mentor. The Dean was in the, in the mix as well, not just early career staff, everyone was to be treated equally. We make more use of an engaged, more, uh, more concertedly with various bits of support where the grants under the things that the university had in terms of kind of the big topics and the things that one thing that stood out for me is in a situation like this and trying to explain to people who are not in the staff, why we’re any good, why they should care.

Thom Brooks (12:33):

And when I was kind of doing my chats to the firms, doing various interviews, doing open days, speaking to your students to say things live, and we have more people to write books, uh, that you might not find at your local bookshop, that we publish in journals that are too expensive for a non university, too afford that you might not have the kind of publishing, highly regarded things, whatever they are, according to whoever is the kind of thing that everyone expects is happening. We publish on this, we publish every universities publishing stuff. There’s nothing unique about that. Um, I wanted to push colleagues into doing more impact and engage in stuff, because again, to say that someone has a new book and it’s really powerful and interesting, it might be. And the people that come to the school are smart and our graduates are smart and they know more about the world than I do.

Thom Brooks (13:35):

I specialize in immigration stuff. So some super people who people, so I’m not going saying anything other than that, but you only get too far. If you instead say, you know, that the law has changed because of the people here in the school, that kind of key things in the news has changed because of graduates in this school, because people working in the school because of things connected to the school, you know, during Brexit, for example, I commented to the parole commission, changing the question to the leave, remain things. So I wouldn’t want to put in two academics quoted in that. So that’s the referendum question. You then have the member of parliament putting the bill through for withdrawal was graduates. Then some sort of general chancellor was a Durham graduate. That first case about did Theresa May need parliament to pull the trigger that was heard by the Supreme court, as you know, and one of the members of Supreme court, was our graduate on the supreme court when the other case happened about prorogation of parliament, in Scotland, that was involved with someone who was a Durham law graduate on that case and Scotland case goes to Supreme court.

Thom Brooks (14:49):

Another member, all of the other graduate of the law school. Uh, the second woman on the supreme court was on hearing that case. Then we had the internal market bill, the senior government advisor resigned over concerns, also a Durham graduate. So I quite like to you know, you know, you’re reading about Brexit it’s a kind of a big thing . Sounds like it means something in the legal world to people. And at every stage, whether they’re commenting, whether they’re decision makers, whether they be politicians, whether they be lawyers again, my fusion of law and politics, to some degree in my own mind, my own work on both sides. You know, people who are trying to, you know, civil did it done, whatever that means it hasn’t done yet by the way or of those who had reservations or on the remain side, both sides had had, there are people sometimes in the same college, uh, which was also fascinating sociologically, um, to see it brought things alive, they thought Durham is then a place that they’re not just kind of doing good cause the numbers looked good.

Thom Brooks (15:50):

They’re not just kind of publishing stuff that people like because you know, whatever it says in there, uh, everyone has something like that, but impact changing things, being on the tele, being on the radio, being there, whether it be staff, whether it be graduates and being aware that they’re Durham people that I think was what kind of takes it up a notch. That’s one of the things I see as a difference. Like say fact, when I’m back home, people who’ve been involved in kind of key decision making who are there to advise students and their staff, not everybody, not for everyone. And then there is a point of great scholarship of the scholar. So that’s hugely important that used to be me our people are out there changing the world. I say, as it were or being part of that. And then you want to show you’re a little boy and girl, uh, you know, as it were, you know, you’re, you’re in a child coming and studying with us or working with us. If you’re law firms, then you know, we are connected these people, we are those people we could show you where things are going, where involved that is an X-Factor that’s, that’s the thing that now you’re in the realm of stuff where it’s hard to put price tags on, but just, it just took me to kind of in the job, going out there, being in the fields, being the folks at the top, and what do other little schools in the, in the very top, what do they do and how do they manage themselves?

Thom Brooks (17:08):

How do you kind of really mark yourself out, but certainly that was in there

Rob Hanna (17:12):

And you mentioned it there and let’s just dig a bit deeper. Cause you’ve met these law firms that are your future lawyers that they end up at. You know, what do you think are some of the key differences between law school and private practice and how can law school such as Durham alter the learning model to best prepare students for the career in practice?

Thom Brooks (17:31):

Well, because there’s lots of differences, um, i’ll try to stick with some things that are fairly kind of the less obvious. Law firms I mean, one thing they have in common is they’re, you know, they they’re effectively only able to effectively charge or draw people in to the degree that people have faith, confidence in what bill is. You know, people will decide to spend their fee, whether it be as a British citizen, the British system, we don’t get started on that. Or as overseas students, when you’re overseas fees differential, it’s not going to invest one way or the other going somewhere, unless they thought they were going to get something out of that, whether it be feeling good, oh wait, you know, there’s, you know, we’ll see the ones that mean to satisfy a customer, it doesn’t mean that they have to be better off materially or well being or other things or all of them who knows.

Thom Brooks (18:26):

That’s the eye of the people, you know, they vote with their feet. They’re impressed by the brand, uh, what you have on offer. Then they’re going to keep coming. And it’s been a very big statement. You know, you couldn’t double the staff here and frankly pay for it for the same quality in larger numbers to, to cover that in our new, your cohort of students has grown to compensate for the extra staff. But that was, that was always fun. That was, that was never, never, never a problem. And so having this is very big and the same things go for the firms, the less you’ve heard of them, the less you think of them, the more difficult life will be in general . So there’s things like that in common also just kind of what they, what they’re doing. Of course the firm may want to change the world, but I suspect that those are the very top, you know, they’ll each do, maybe more proactively, more aggressively, some kind of pro bono like tough getting their name attached to some kind of big things for the free publicity for the connection for the, um, and so on from that much as say, I discard, you know, ourselves and then being, you know, everyone has to teach contract law or teaching what the, what it is today but people who know about where it’s going to feature involved in those conversations.

Thom Brooks (19:42):

And because once students graduate, they’re done learning with us. They’re all from the world and the law isn’t usually static, it’s not for very long. So getting people prepared to engage with that and do that kind of thing is important so you have kind of different angles, kind of from different, uh, different ways. And I think one other kind of crucial thing is, you know, for us to survive, as it were it is probably about having something that kids want to do. You hear lots of things about either a novel degrees or Mickey mouse degrees , the results we need to stop this and stop that, and yet, somehow we have a market and then they go off, the kids want to do it. And they feel that this is worth it to them, that this is part of me that is very, and they retain more and more relaxed. But the law firms, you know, they might know rules better than anyone, but, uh, you know, they might have the best people for doing something, but people don’t have confidence in that.

Thom Brooks (20:37):

You know, they’re, if people don’t buy it effectively or, um, then you know, they, they, they have that business facing pretty much. It’s, you know, we can be as smart as we want to be that no one thinks we’re very smart, probably what we’re doing, but we do know the clients are different but love the model is the same. There is something Robert about what the, like what kind of makes out better law schools in general, that I’ve tried to orient ourselves to. And this is, this is a very, very short story, but it’s a little itsy bitsy so there’s, there’s, you know, the first law school or one of the first law schools, at least in Europe, Western Europe was Bologna . And what you saw kind of traditionally with law schools there purpose was to give a qualification. They were places of learning. And it was a very much a Scholastic experience and outsiders to the continental, civil and traditional configured kind of a Scholastic thing.

Thom Brooks (21:38):

Anyway. So, so it had that, that kind of mentality. There’s a legacy to that. It is, it is true that when I have spoken to partners, I’ve visited all of the magic and silver circle and others boutique in London and elsewhere. And in the United Kingdom, I have not yet met somebody who has met another Dean at another law school yet outside of a graduation ceremony. Usually the one they had 10, 15, 20, 35 more years ago, I tend to be it, the only university people, most law firms tend to see is someone from the career service. Uh, you know, they, they only see someone, an academic in the department where they’re doing a campus visit and the rare moments that they are. And, um, you know, they’ll open up lots of teams, but not everyone’s on every visit. So the one that they’re involved, they might pop in and see what’s going on, have some chance encounters, but that would be it they weren’t proactive people coming to them, this was a new one.

Thom Brooks (22:38):

Um, and, and when I’ve gone across continental Europe that is also the case most have not , there are exceptions, but most aren’t doing that thing really much at all. In the United States, of course, it’s the total opposite. So now I’m telling you about Litchfield, so Litchfield was started in the lounge of, of a, of a bloke who was a very experienced lawyer in a new country. And law was not a part of any university in America at the time founded, law was an apprenticeship. Law was finding someone to let you in to see what’s going on and learning the trade first hand by doing and this guy in the lounge for a fee, uh, he tought two former vice presidents, including Aaron Bird, famous with the whole Hamilton thing, tought them by himself, originally all areas of law. And it was kind of like an extra finishing school for those who could afford it from surrounding areas to go out and practice.

Thom Brooks (23:35):

And it was always practice facing. And so in the United States today, you see the legacy of that too. It is a graduate degree. Law schools are largely, still a largely be autonomous from the rest of the university, the head of a law school sit alongside the president or the executive, not true in Britain, not true in most of the places where we’re treated like any other department, underwater faculties, typically there’s much less power, much less resources, much less budget and so on. And so then the Americans and the American degree is aimed at practitioners. It is about getting you to pass the bar exam, doing various law clinics is an essential part of what it is from the start, and most law schools will be about getting you to pass the bar exam. And off you go, thank you very much. And the very top places you’re going to talk places do a combination of these things, the highest levels of the Scholastic, very in-depth kind of academic stuff, where it’s academic safe and addressing problems because they’re interesting and this kind of stuff, there’ll be a group of people, maybe half the department, at least a third, doing that.

Thom Brooks (24:42):

And then the others will be the more practitioner based from law and politics who typically the best places will not be just one jurisdiction, but be something Asian law will be other areas of the globe as well, not a lot, but there’ll be something there. And so their graduates don’t just learn how to pass the New York state bar exam, whatever that means and go out there and have some fun, but they get their students ready for jobs. The top international firms of course have the biggest jobs and those training contracts, uh, and so on and so forth, kind of expand their ‘inaudiable’ and then also more global. And they have more international students going to those places, to the Yales, the Harvard’s and Colombia’s than the places across the road. We won’t name them for various reasons that have much less, uh, uh, folks from, from over overseas. So the difference i think between law schools and, um, firms, but also I think between most law schools and the ones at the very top and final comment, if I can is that, that also is the same difference you see then going back with law firms, you know, the very best law firms are the ones with the biggest reputation, the magic circle in particular, but not just them. What are they? They’re international. They’re everywhere they have global reach they can, they can spoil you with your case that you’re doing something here, but they can also do things, seemingly everywhere, and they’re ready for that kind of outlook, that kind of regard, and that kind of reach. And that’s true of the elite law schools. That’s truly elite law firms and that’s, and that’s what makes them really, it’s not just that they’ve been around a while. That’s what, there’s a bit of money floating around lots of places, money programs, it’s how it’s used. And it’s what they do that I think makes them different.

Rob Hanna (26:30):

Love it, really appreciate that. What I want to ask, is obviously with 2021 being the year of the introduction of the SQE, phasing out the LPC, one of the biggest changes to the profession in years, what is your opinion as concisely as you can? Cause I know it’s topical and debatable on the SQE. And are you worried about the new route could not provide trainees with the necessary skills they need to be a solicitor?

Thom Brooks (26:53):

Well, I think that the SQE, as a thing, is a mistake in my personal private judgment. Uh, I re representing only myself as a personal opinion, uh, and so on and so forth. And I think it’s a mistake for a number of reasons. And let me do so let’s say so in a constructive but short manner to willing to say is, you know, if somebody say to me, look, Tom, do you think it’s time we had a refresh of what law students need to know? Do you think that we should look again at this? Do you think that it’s worth asking the question? I think absolutely i’m a hundred percent behind it, you know, i’m, uh, evangelical, uh, about willing to, to kind of relook at this. So I don’t think it’s in stone, uh, should be in stone all for that. Then the question you can ask, uh, could be, you know, so, all right.

Thom Brooks (27:49):

So, you know, it’s worth kind of asking the question and looking again at then, you know, if you also think, you know, things that you specified in the pattern, so it’s like, well, yeah, I mean, at the moment for a qualifying law degree, it’s pretty bare right there, here at Cornell university, you know, kind of like I paraphrase, you know, do enough public law, do enough, you do enough towards which cases are enough. Do you have to have cases, can you do it only philosophically philosophy of contract law? Does that count as having substantial sufficient contract law versus a or not? There’s a lot of things there that I can think, you know, in Scotland the qualifying Titus spells out much more and addresses that. And the answer is, no, you can’t just do a philosophy of it. Some of it’s alright, but there are certain things that one needs to know and my personal view would be, I would’ve liked something a bit more directed, frankly, a bit more heavy handed, open minded about, and then maybe even something kind of radical about what to do.

Thom Brooks (28:56):

Why do you think all of this stuff is a, is a terrible mistake. In a nutshell, this is supposed to open things up. You know, the argument is that folks from different backgrounds have not had the opportunity to work in law and that this would somehow make it better and make things kind of more equal. So there’d be a higher quality or the people coming through and be a more diverse group of people coming through as well. And there’s equality you don’t need a law degree anymore to get through or any university level training in law at all. Does that mean that they’ll be better lawyers? I’m all about people doing other subjects i think the GDL’s awesome. So I think that, you know, people doing different routes is great and a good thing, for all parts of the law profession that I don’t think you need more LLB or less LLB, but i thought there would be like pretty non where it’s not even important, uh, of the exam will answer all and a multiple choice exam, where there is a correct answer to, you know, and only one or two legal questions.

Thom Brooks (30:02):

And that is the barometer of, uh, there, uh, whether people are ready to be good lawyers and not handling usual cases, we deal with where, you know, what is the best answer? How do you argue that case, how do you build up a case where a lot of things is applying stuff where things can there’s two sides or more or more, and it’s not always clear and dealing with uncertainty and still longer. That’s a skill that lawyers need to have to qualify to forever be a qualified, licensed solicitor as the rules apply. This seems to be stark raving barking mad and I constantly challenged the SRA on social media, in person when I would be at different events and elsewhere that they’ve got some question or anyone has any questions about Durham standards, please have a visit, I’d love to have a chat and open the books, but it hasn’t happened during my tenure.

Thom Brooks (31:03):

So, um, so let’s say one thing, the other thing about the kind of being a more diversity and things, you know, what’s the problem here. The problems needs to be with the SRA regulated LPC, and I’ve been thinking, well, hang on a second. If you guys are overseeing the LPC, you think LPC’s working right where you there’s some issues around things with this , or so it seems then when are you going there? You know, why don’t you, honey? Why don’t you respecting what could be, you know, why are you having to work a toner this, or changing this, or who in that experience, why are you just kind of dropping the thing you are kind of overseeing to have something in a test that someone else is going to oversee to do it didn’t have, I I’m a bit perplexed by some of this stuff. You know, they felt that there’s not enough law graduates.

Thom Brooks (31:49):

Most people who sadly get a qualifying law degree, of course don’t work in law, many get other work in law, but many can’t even if they walked through. So should there be more entry points to have even more people get in or one consultation I had someone say to me, Thom, well, we can’t have the pin of everyone, Durham, Oxford, or Cambridge graduates. We need to have a, you know, or another other kind of Russell Group places we need to have kind of a big spread. It’s like, well, hang on a second. You know, diversity is not one person from this law school one person from that law school. I mean, that’s not, that’s not diversity. And the top people from those places might of all gone to the same school, then just went to a different law school, and that’s not diversity you know? And, and I think, you know, so I think it’s not going to lead to a higher quality of people.

Thom Brooks (32:38):

A lot of firms are doing blind CVS where they it’s taking universities out anyway. And at the end of the day, you look at the top places for employability, Oxford, Cambridge, ourselves, Bristol is also great, Nottingham and all law schools are great, I suppose. They’re all great. Wonderful. But you know, those are at the top of the employ ability rankings. I’m thinking of the chamber students directing in particular, what do they have in common they have a tutoring system, very small groups teaching. And is that going to change? No. You know, and you know, getting kind of more and others who are in different situations are often at different groups, do different ways. Um, staff, student ratio resource from the universities there’s other factors doing is the SQE exam going to do this? I think not there was an opportunity missed because frankly I think that, you know, across genuinely, this is me, Thom speaking, not just presidents might be genuinely, you know, there was some inspiring stuff at every level, from the top to the bottom law schools, incredible stuff happening at law schools and really working hard to attract students and, and doing a great job with it. And, you know, there was an opportunity to kind of talk about how we could come together and do something new and more exciting and make for better students make for better legal education. And I think frankly, almost everyone and another, everyone was up for it. Oh, they then have this

Rob Hanna (34:03):

Well, time will tell. And I really appreciate you sharing your, your view on that. I just want to finally ask, you know, um, you’re no stranger to the media. You’ve been highly recognized as a public speaker you’re featured on Newsnight, BBC news, CNN, sky news, just to name a few. So can you tell our listeners what sort of things you tend to get interviewed for?

Thom Brooks (34:24):

Right. Well, I mean, yeah, so one of the main things like I tend to be picked up for was originally immigration stuff. Uh, immigration, uh, at least was, it’s not at the moment. I think it’s probably a good thing but was was the kind of top issue of greatest concern? And we were seeing almost annual, um, a new, uh, act going through parliament tweaking bits of immigration law. And so having somebody who understands how the whole system works and an immigrant voice was something that I was very keen to be that immigrant on your television, on your radio elsewhere in the print media to speak about rules that I had experienced, that I knew about this because you have an enormous amount of pundits who are not immigrants themselves they’re never immigrated anywhere than to go on holiday and, um, and then certainly teach this stuff, write about the stuff, live, this stuff yet they were, the ones, , um, taking up all the airwaves.

Thom Brooks (35:22):

They’re the ones, you know, we’ve been doing for years, launching a points, paced immigration system. And then, you know it started, allegedly after Brexit, yeah it started over 10 years ago, may now under new labour, uh, you know, ask anyone with a tv set, working in law firms listening to this podcast because it didn’t change how they think tweak to that, how they apply it, but it’s the same thing. So it was kind of on immigration originally. And then when immigration became a big thing with the whole Brexit, you know, votes and what to do about it, that’s where I was particularly in high demand. And it was fun. It was fun. It still is fun. I still get, there’s still a lot going on.

Rob Hanna (36:00):

Well, we look forward to seeing you on our TVs, much, much more in the future. And so that kind of brings to the close our fascinating conversation Thom. So if people want to get in touch with you about anything we’ve discussed, what’s the best way for them to do that. Feel free to shout out any web links or relevant social media that you use. And we’ll also promote and share that with this episode for you as well.

Thom Brooks (36:22):

I suppose the easiest way to get in touch with me is either through my website, Thom Brooks one word .info , or I’m on Twitter Thom under the underlying score Brooks, I can’t spell either of my names, Americans we can’t spell anything so it’s Thom Brooks. But yeah that’s the easiest way to get in touch and yeah really enjoyed it. Thanks

Rob Hanna (36:45):

Thank you so much, Thom. It’s been a real pleasure having you on the show, wishing you lots of continued success with all of your wider pursuits, but from all of us over and out, this week’s review comes from Vera. Vera says “COVID has helped me catch up on all the things I love doing, including listening to podcasts. What makes the legally speaking podcast special is that they interview a range of people from different professional backgrounds. That way I can learn more about being a lawyer in all departments.” Thanks so, so much for your review. Their words, can’t express how much that means to all of us here on the show. We really appreciate each and every individual loyal listener that supports us on our mission of wanting to be the number one podcast for the legal and wider communities.

Rob Hanna (37:33):

Thank you for listening to this episode of the Legally Speaking Podcast. If you enjoyed the show and want to help support us, remember to leave us a rating and review on apple iTunes, you can also support the show and gain exclusive benefits, bonus content, and much more by signing up to our Patreon page, which is Thanks for listening.


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