Following her guest lecture, ACELG visiting fellow Tammy Hervey (University of Sheffield) speaks to us about her early drive to establish as much fairness as possible, her pleasure in collaborating with students and her commitment to EU Law beyond Brexit.
My mother is fond of reminding me that, even as a young child, I was interested in how to set the rules (of the family) so that things could be as fair as possible. I guess I have always been interested in law as a site for socially progressive movements, and as an undergraduate I could see that, in the UK context, even back in the late 1980s, EU law could be an impetus for improving equality, and workers’ rights. Even then, I often said that I might feel differently if I was in another Member State, because of course there is a great deal about EU law to criticise, from that perspective, as so much of EU law is designed to promote the imperatives of capitalism, rather than protect the more vulnerable in society. Much of my career has been about offering a critique of EU law.
I first got into EU health law through working on EU social law more broadly. A colleague at the time, Jean McHale, is a medical lawyer, and she and I talked over lunches about a case that was causing a lot of interest in the UK – Diane Blood, who was able to rely on EU free movement law to take her deceased husband's frozen gametes to Belgium and have IVF. We started working together, thinking about all the ways that EU law affects and intersects with health law, and we are still working together to this day. I'm extremely proud of the (long!) 2015 book that Jean and I wrote together, which makes the argument for the first time at book length that 'EU health law' (not just the intersection of EU law and health) is a meaningful category, that can be understood thematically.
The focus on research methods came from when I was asked to be the Director of the PhD programme in my department. I noticed that law PhD students were not very good at expressly articulating this aspect of their work, and neither was I. I set about developing a research agenda on legal research methods in EU and international law in part to educate myself, and in part for the next generation. We had a great deal of fun working collaboratively to develop the workshops that ended up in a small yellow book about research methodologies, which is still one of the publications that I am most proud of.
I wouldn't say any of these aspects of my work happened 'naturally', but neither were they a 'pre-set plan' from the beginning. Rather, they came from a kind of reflective and learning mindset that is always on the lookout for interesting new things to learn about. There's some more reflections on how I became a professor here.
I really do not think of teaching and research as distinct. I know that universities are structured to force that distinction, and I try to fight it as much as I have energy to do. Instead, I think of universities as a place of shared learning. I honestly learn as much from my students as they do from me. Sure, I know more facts about EU law than they do. I've probably read more academic literature than they have. But they know way more about what it's like to be a young person in the 21st century, and often about a bunch of other stuff too.
One of the most fun things for me at work is to collaborate with students on research projects. They could be research projects that are part of a student's 'for-credit' learning. I have developed modules where the assessment criteria reward students who take risks and try to develop some new research, even if it doesn't quite come off. Or they could be research projects where I am paying the student to join my research team. I like co-writing with students too – it's fun for me to take a student's text and work with them to get it ready for publication. There's a little more about the pleasure of working with students here.
To be really honest, for me, 'law in the books' isn't interesting enough to sustain the whole of my career. I want to stress, though, that I totally respect people for whom that is enough, and I strive to be a good doctrinal legal scholar too. (I've been doing much more of that kind of legal scholarship since the EU referendum in the UK, because there are all these new legal texts and we need to understand what the legal texts actually mean, not what the UK government (or the EU Commission) says that they think they mean.) But I also want to understand what the effect of the law is in practice, on the ground – and for that I need to work with people from other disciplines, learn enough about their methods to be able to do so, and draw on data other than legal text. I believe that there's room in the legal academy for all kinds of legal research: we should be open, not a closed community. But we should also make sure that others understand that legal doctrinal method brings something to the table too.
Yes. The EU referendum was a very difficult moment for me personally and professionally – as it was for all my EU law colleagues and friends in the UK. Some of us will, I'm sure, become less EU lawyers, and more focused on 'the law of Brexit', 'the law of the new EU-UK relationship' and/or the substantive legal area that we are interested in (environmental law, labour law, migration law, trade law, financial services law, public procurement law, competition law, health law...). Since June 2016, it has been very hard trying to work out where I will sit for the next years of my career. But I am now 100% sure that I want to continue to be an EU lawyer. One of the things I have been doing during my visit to the University of Amsterdam is working on some entries for an exciting new project: an online Encyclopaedia of EU Law. I'm honoured to have been asked to be one of 24 editors - I'm responsible for the EU health law entries, and I'll be looking to commission others to join me in writing these. So I'm lucky to have my dear European colleagues and friends, and networks, to stay connected intellectually, even though the UK has left the EU.
Read about Tammy Hervey's lecture on 'Health Brexternalities.'