A conversation with... Dr Goldoni

The Glasgow University Law Society (GULS) Law Review has commissioned a series of interviews with academic staff from across the School. Here, students Adam McMonagle & Holly McKenna talk to Dr Marco Goldoni. Introduction

Dr Marco Goldoni joined the Law School in 2012. He holds a degree (LLB) in Law and a degree (BA) in Philosophy, both from the University of Bologna. He earned a first PhD in Legal Philosophy from the University of Pisa and a second PhD in European Law from the University of Antwerp. He is currently member of the CELAPA (Centre for Law and Public Affairs, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic). He has been visiting professor at the Philosophy Department of the University of Uppsala, at FORUM (Uppsala Law School), London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), Universidad Austral de Chile, and University of Brazilia. In 2017, he will be visiting professor at IDC Herzlyia (Tel Aviv). He is co-editor of the series ‘Law & Politics: Continental Perspectives’ (Routledge).

Our Legal Theory sub-editor Adam and Editor in Chief Holly sat down to have a chat with Marco. As the Legal Theory honorary editor for GU Law Review this year, we wished to delve a little deeper into his research and how he got to be where he is today.

The conversation

I believe that you have both studied and taught at a range of universities. Do you believe that a diverse range of experiences is beneficial in academia and do you notice a difference in teaching/learning methods?

It’s definitely beneficial. There are a number of benefits, especially for lawyers. It helps one to understand their own legal system if one works, teaches or researches in another jurisdiction. The more you work somewhere else, the more it clarifies your own legal system to you. It is also enriching to see different ways of studying the law. One of the great assets of Glasgow, and indeed the British system, is its capacity to attract so many international scholars because of its reputation. At the European level, having a permanent position at a UK university is seen as a great achievement, so continental Europeans will often look up to this. There is also a huge competitive advantage which makes UK universities so appealing, and the tradition attached too (with Glasgow being the 4th oldest university in the UK with many high-ranking scholars having worked here and made revolutionary contributions). I believe these three factors together make the case that UK universities are some of the most attractive to work at. For law schools especially, if we compare it to the American system – which is more insular -  it is rarer to find comparative scholarships; UK universities are more like ‘international hubs.’

Is working in academia something you wanted to do when starting university or became open to after a while?

Academia was something that I came across while studying. I had no idea about academic research originally but by the end of my degree, it became evident that I was more interested in understanding the law than practicing it. Of course, practicing is very important, but at a certain point, I had to test myself to see what resonated – for me, this was always understanding the law. It has always been more urgent for me to understand the law. This is why research appeared as the natural avenue to take.

How easy did you find it breaking into academia?

I found it very difficult and painstaking. I had no idea what the right path to take was as I did not have a mentor figure – it was a matter of trial and error and experimenting with different paths. Ultimately, you learn by trying, so it has been a learning process and nothing can be taken for granted. Lots of mistakes will be made. This is why, as a mentor, I am very careful in advising people because I know how costly it is to have to find out all the right moves to make by yourself. Through this, I have definitely learned that mentorship is key in breaking into academia.

What level of flexibility do you have in terms of the research that you choose to do?

I feel completely free in this – this is one of the great assets of the UK system. In Belgium, for instance, there were a lot of constraints and academics did not have a huge say in how they would develop their topics and the range of things that could be researched in the first place was much more limited. Fundamentally, this was due to tradition. Such systems are based on co-option and if you wished to be co-opted by someone senior, you had to converge on their ideas. For instance, if you worked under someone who believed international law trumped state law and you disagreed, this could be potentially career-damaging.

What is your favourite part of being an academic?

I would say that there are four things that I particularly enjoy:

  1. Mentoring, first and foremost. I get lots of satisfaction at a personal level from this and enjoy being able to guide new academics.
  2. Teaching people who will go on to have a real impact and to shape the way people look at the law. People often argue that by the time one enters into the profession, it has its own criteria and strict rules, and that the structures of institutions determine behaviour. However, I remain an optimist and think that there remains some ‘wiggle room.’
  3. Lots of travel and being able to see new places. This is something I have found especially possible when working in a UK university. For instance, I am heading to Bogotá next week.
  4. Lots of reading! Often, I am paid to read classic works of literature. 

Are there any aspects of your job that you don’t particularly enjoy?

I don’t like to see students coming to class and spending all of their time on social media. I understand that sometimes you need a break from concentrating, but it is quite annoying as a lecturer. I also don’t especially enjoy the administration that is involved, as it steals valuable time from research, teaching, conferences, etc.

I’m aware that you are currently a member of the CELAPA (Centre for Law and Public Affairs, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic). What does your role in this position involve?

This is a part-time position. I was offered a full-time position here but it was incompatible with my job at Glasgow, which is more important to me. CELAPA is a centre within the Academy of Sciences in Prague. In former Soviet countries, parallel research centres are established with universities, referred to as ‘Academies of Science.’ This centre in particularly is an attempt to try and open up the Czech system to other lawyers and researchers from other jurisdictions. I accepted the position here because it gave me an interesting insight into a totally different legal system and research environment. Plus, you get to meet some interesting people. It is a great experience, but very demanding.

Is there anything you would like to do in your career that you have not yet had the opportunity to do?

I would love to be able to establish a research centre. It would be a thematic centre on, for instance, law in the political economy, and would hire post-doctoral researchers so that it would become a hub and point of reference for the topic, perhaps even at a global level. I would love to have this based in the UK. I would also enjoy writing something in art or the social history of music – i.e. where does music come from and where is it going? A big hobby of mine is electronic music and the link between this and forms of life (the sociological side of things). I suppose this is one of the problems with life – you cannot possibly do everything and must choose which avenues to follow.

~ Adam McMonagle & Holly McKenna

The shooting in Santa Fe, Texas

The shooting in Santa Fe, Texas

Whaling in Japan: an international and environmental issue