Professor Elizabeth Smart

Photo of Elizabeth SmartTell us a bit about your career story so far.

I began my career as a practising solicitor working in private practice as a personal injury lawyer and then for the Crown Prosecution Service.

I moved into higher education after several years in practice and worked as the Legal Practice Course Director at the University of Sheffield for nine years before moving to Leeds as Dean of the Law School for BPP University College where I oversaw the development of bespoke legal education training courses designed to meet the needs for both firms of solicitors; barristers and students from a diverse range of backgrounds.  During this time I served on the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) Quality Assurance Committee and as an SRA Assessor and External Examiner; alongside this work I also continued to act as a consultant to various police forces providing courtroom skills training and shaping best practice in terms of pre interview disclosure.

I moved to Sheffield Hallam as Head of Law in 2013 and oversaw the transition of the Law Clinic into SHU Law under the umbrella of the Helena Kennedy Centre for International Justice and raised the profile of the University as a gold standard legal education provider which culminated in the award of Legal Education provider of the Year in 2016.

As a result of my work I was made a National Teaching Fellow and also became a Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy in 2016. In this role I support colleagues who aspire to achieve the same, providing mentoring and advice in order to enable their success.

I was awarded a personal chair for recognition of my work in February 2016.

What does it mean personally to you to be a professor at Sheffield Hallam? What do you value about it?

It was a great honour to be awarded a personal chair in legal education.  It was a recognition of all my hard work and dedication. Plus, with my award being based on a combination of teaching and learning and external and professional engagement, I felt it would pave the way for other colleagues to be successful whose background was not necessarily research led.

I value being a professor in an institution which clearly values and places a strong emphasis on the importance of applied learning and teaching together with clinical research informed and led thinking.

If you could go back in time and give yourself some career advice, what would it be?

Always challenge yourself to be the best you can be; recognise that there will be challenges along the way and develop resilience to meet those challenges with solutions and create opportunities for yourself to develop.

Overall be aspirational and think strategically in terms of where you want to get to. Remember to continuously and constructively critique your personal and professional development so that you are constantly moving forward in a positive and professional manner.

Tell us about your work as a professor?

I balance my time in SHU Law as both a managing director and as Head of Law.  SHU Law is Sheffield Hallam’s own ‘not for profit’ teaching law firm, providing advice to vulnerable clients at a time when they need it most and where they would not otherwise have access to justice.  This work is vitally important to the University and the community it serves and enables us to drive forward a clear and defining civic engagement agenda which is ‘best in class’.

I also participate in university-led initiatives in terms of equality and diversity; shaping policy agendas and ensuring that we embed the Hallam Model into our portfolio across the University.

I represent the University at external events speaking about the latest developments in professional legal education and in police training and assessing.  Examples would be presenting at the Civil Justice Forum at Westminster, chaired by Sir Robin Knowles, and at the SRA Conference about the impact of SHU Law and how it relates to the new Solicitors’ Qualification Examination in 2021.

I have also recently been appointed by the Police and Crime Commissioner of South Yorkshire Police to serve on the police Independent Ethics Panel and I also advise and consult with various police forces on new legislation and policy changes on the horizon.