Professor Alison Jones
Professor of Law
Director LLB with European Legal Studies Programme
Director LLB with American Legal Studies Programme
Date started at King’s
Challenges and achievements
When and what was responsible for you becoming interested in your academic discipline?
A series of events led me into the field of competition law. When I started working in a solicitors’ firm I sat with one of the authors of a leading text book on EU competition law and worked in the firm’s newly-opened Brussels office. Subsequently, when I started at King’s, I was lucky enough to work with the eminent Professor Richard Whish, who had joined the Law School the previous year, and two other colleagues who also had an interest in the subject. Things snowballed from there. Now King’s has one of the biggest research clusters of competition lawyers in the world and we educate students from across the globe. We offer an LLB course, 16 LLM modules, Diploma and MA Programmes and supervise numerous PhD students.
What are your research interests, and what drew you to this area?
In the last ten years, my research interests have principally focused on the sphere of Competition Law. The subject is a fascinating and complex mix of law, economics and politics. I have a particular interest in comparative law, but my research covers a range of competition law topics, many of which interface with other areas of law, including: EU free movement law; criminal law; intellectual property law; and foreign investment law. Having divided my time for some years between King’s and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer (a multinational and leading British law firm), I have been able to gain insight into the issues that challenge practitioners and businesses on a day to day basis and, consequently, to gain inspiration for some pressing research topics.
Tell us about a couple of your achievements that have been particularly rewarding.
Finishing a challenging article or book is always extremely rewarding (as well as a relief!). In 2007, I was promoted to Professor and won a teaching excellence award – so that was a memorable year.
Do you have professional role models? Who are they and what do you find inspiring about them and their accomplishments?
I particularly admire a number of my female colleagues who have prevailed in a principally male-dominated environment. A number of them have also combined fantastic academic careers with bringing up and managing a close and happy family – an extremely difficult balance to achieve, as most working mothers know.
What if any support has most benefited you in your career?
Academia has some contrasting aspects. Although teaching involves interaction with colleagues and students, research and writing can be rather solitary. It is important to work hard to maintain links with other academics, many of whom have very different specialisms and interests and hectic schedules. Indeed, support from a few generous colleagues at King’s and elsewhere has been vital to me at all stages of my career– whether discussing teaching, research, or the challenges of academic life more generally.
What do you feel is the most enjoyable/rewarding aspect of your job at King’s?
Probably the most tangibly rewarding aspect of the job is seeing students develop and grow, both during their studies at King’s, and afterwards. For example, as Director of our LLB with European Legal Studies and LLB with American Legal Studies Programmes, I have been able to see first-hand how beneficial a period of study abroad can be to our students. Indeed, students on these programmes consistently tell me that the course has been fantastic and has been the best thing they have ever done. It is also satisfying to see just how successful many of our former students are, whether as practising lawyers, as academics, or in other fields. In the last few months, for example, I have given a paper at an academic conference in Uppsala hosted by one of my former LLB with European Legal Studies students, been to Leiden to examine the PhD of one my former LLM students and discovered that one of my former LLB with European Legal Studies students has been made head of competition law in a leading banking group.
How do you balance the various demands of a career in academia: research, teaching/learning, administration?
It is not easy! Teaching/learning and administration and the huge volume of emails requiring urgent attention increasingly fill my time throughout the year, leaving ever shorter periods to focus on research. In order to try to use time most efficiently, I try to cluster meetings/administration and teaching together as far as is feasible and, where possible, to reserve blocks of time to focus on research.
How do you balance an academic career with life outside the workplace?
With some difficulty, but again this is an area of contrasts. Modern technology provides us with flexibility, but also means that work can be constantly with you at home and on holiday. In addition, academic commitments are infinite, so drawing a line between work and other things, and clearing precious family time (children are only children for such a short time…), is challenging. Often juggling work and family commitments means that a large number of balls are up in the air at any one time – hopefully, they come down in the right place! I find running to be a really good way to re-energise myself and relieve stress and at the end of a long day teaching or researching. Running can also help to clear the head, allowing you space to think about a problem that has been troubling you during the day, and provide a mechanism for setting yourself a new challenge, for example, when training for a marathon.
What have you learnt from your experiences that you would like to share with others?
Because some of aspects of the job can be solitary, work hard to find good mentors and colleagues to discuss all aspects of your work.
As academics we constantly face tight deadlines, especially in relation to publications. It is important not to be in too much of a hurry, however. When people read our work they remember who wrote it, not how long it took.