Tutor Q&A – Mr Joel Klaff, Senior Lecturer in Law
On which programmes and modules do you teach?
“I teach on the LLB, Joint Honours Law, and LLM (including specialist pathways) programmes, on modules about sustainability and international business law, commercial and consumer law, contractual obligations, and the English legal system: skills and ethics.”
What is your professional background and experience?
“After graduating in the UK with an LLB, I spent around ten years working and studying in the United States. Initially, I worked in Legal Services: a US government funded department, which provides legal advice to people who can’t afford the services of mainstream lawyers. Working with a qualified lawyer, I gave legal advice about housing and employment to new immigrants and refugees.
“I have always been extremely grateful for this experience because it allowed me to engage first hand, at an early stage of my career, with individuals who were facing extreme hardships. It made me realise that law, if used constructively and creatively, can actually make significant improvements to people’s lives.
“After completing an LLM in Taxation at the University of Miami, I first became a research assistant there and later secured a teaching position. While teaching there, I set up and ran a legal clinic for homeless people. We tend not to appreciate the fact that homeless people have similar legal problems to the rest of us. We used to go to various homeless hostels and literally set up shop on the pavement, where we would deliver legal services to whoever needed them. This experience taught me the relevance of legal skills and the importance of how to deal with clients in law – something that I think all students need to recognise.”
What research or other non-teaching projects are you currently involved in?
“My research focuses on the injustice and unfairness of law. I am interested in why, despite all the laws we have, we still have discrimination, gender inequality and poverty to name only a few issues. I am currently researching alternate priorities and values in law, which would, hopefully, one day actually rid our society of a number of ills rather than simply contain them.
“Related to this I engage with voluntary organisations as a pro bono consultant on matters of discrimination and human rights. Some of the cases I have consulted on have involved unfair and discriminatory practices to the Roma Gypsy community as well refugees and immigrants to the UK.”
What do you enjoy most about teaching?
“Teaching for me is a process of inspiring and enriching my students with knowledge, skills and self-belief. I want my students to graduate with confidence in their ability, which will allow them to contribute to the welfare, benefit and progress of society.
I enjoy getting my students to this point.”
What key piece of career advice would you give to today’s law students?
“Work hard, be enthusiastic, proactive, and do everything you can to create opportunities for yourself.”