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In Conversation with Professor Reisberg

After seven years of hard work, dedicated service and many inspiring successes, Professor Arad Reisberg has stepped down as Head of Brunel Law School. We sat down with Professor Reisberg to discuss his tenure and to look back together at the transformational impact he has had on the close-knit community that is Brunel Law School.


1. What inspired you to become a Head of School in the first place, and what did you hope to achieve when you took on the role?

Funny enough I never thought of that role until I was head-hunted and was asked to apply. I wasn’t sure I wanted to do it, to begin with. I needed convincing. The more I learnt about the role, the university, the opportunity and the challenges, the more it appealed to me. Even when I was interviewed (I remember it was a long day with three different panels), I wasn’t sure that I wanted the post. But after I was offered the post, and realising the scale of the challenge coupled with already being at UCL Laws for 10 years at the time (including serving as Vice-Dean (Research) for 3 years), I needed a change. I thrive on challenges and transforming a place which had so much potential was extremely appealing.

I hoped to change the environment, and by that, I mean the research environment, teaching environment, supportive and safe environment for colleagues, and the student experience, from joining the Law School to graduation. I knew it would take time. I had patience. I started by talking to colleagues, each one of them. By listening to them. It is amazing what you learn from just listening to people.

2. Looking back on your seven years as Head of this School, what do you consider to be your biggest accomplishments in terms of improving the educational experience for students?

That’s a big question! I reckon there are a lot of layers, incremental improvements over time that came together to achieve that. A lot of small and big improvement that, in the end, combined, deliver that educational experience for students we want.

Another way of looking at it, and I believe in it wholeheartedly, is that in order to have an open, collaborative, supportive and inspiring environment for students, you have to focus on staff. Yes, on staff. Get the right people. Invest in them. Mentor them. Empower them. Happy and fulfilled staff invariably translates into happy and supportive teaching environment for students.

3. What were some of the greatest challenges you faced during your time as Head of School, and how did you overcome them?

Where does one start? Leading the school through Covid was by far the toughest thing I had to do. Objectively, it was the greatest crisis of our professional lives. The weight of responsibility was immense. Sending daily newsletter to check in on staff was my initial response. It was as much for my sake as it was for everyone’s else.

To channel the anxiety, lack of direction and endless unknowns, and the fear of what’s coming next, in April 2020, at the start of the COVID pandemic, I launched Brunel Cares (producing, buying and raising money to buy PPE) very quickly. It included colleagues from Brunel’s design, alumni (Tony Coyne, Blake Morgan) and development, and procurement teams, as well as law firms, and of course our own Law school colleagues. It was a light and ray of hope in what was a very dark period.

I am proud that we made a difference in practice, to moral, to building a community. It was a joint-effort, of giving us a sense of direction while filling a gap, where the government and others failed. It was about people’s lives. Our lives, and lives of people around us, in our own community. It was touching to see our Moot court room turned into a distribution centre, staff volunteered to distribute mask to care homes.  

It is great we now have a display of photos and a blurb to show our students what can be achieved, in a short period of time, when the stakes are high. I certainly never imagined that we will resort to turning our Moot Court Room to a ‘war room’ when I signed up for this job! 

On a personal level, going through a heart surgery in October 2018 followed by a lengthy period of recovery and rehabilitation was a huge learning curve. By then we had a new DMB functioning, and while I was away the Law School functioned well. It was rewarding to observe. Returning to work, gradually, was not easy, but I had so much support from colleagues and the university that it made it all much easier for me. I am grateful for that.

4. You worked very hard to create a positive school culture and build strong relationships with and amongst students and staff members. Can you tell us more about how you approached this whole endeavour?

Well, I had sufficient time to effect change. I was initially appointed for five years. Then was asked to extend that, to which I agreed, for another couple of years. My work was not finished yet. I had enough time to plan strategically, carry out pilot projects, make changes and address any other deep-seated issues.

At the same time, we built achievements incrementally and in partnership to form something that, when I started, I didn’t know, but turned out to be very special in the end. Pilot projects were started and many had been implemented by the time I am leaving, including the splendid Macfarlanes Training scholarship, now formally an award-winning joint project for Social Mobility, which has chosen its first 3 splendid scholars recently.

I am also particularly proud we spearheaded transformative changes to our equity, diversity and inclusion. We lead, not led, is the motto. This is how we do things. E&D is now embedded in everything that we do. But there is also more work to be done. The school can go much further to fulfil its potential, on all fronts.

5. What were some of the most important initiatives and programs you spearheaded during your tenure, and how did they impact the school community? You seem to be particularly proud of the Macfarlanes partnership.

That’s true. Towards the end of my tenure as Head launching the ground-breaking partnership with Macfarlanes for this unique new initiative was another milestone moment for the Law School. But, this did not ‘just happen’. It is a culmination of hard work, of colleagues working tirelessly and selflessly for our students that brought this to us.

It didn’t happen by chance. Our partnership with Macfarlanes will make Brunel Law School an even more attractive place, and I hope it will provide a template for how universities and the private sector should work together. Other will follow. Just give them time.

I am particularly proud that that Brunel Legal Advice centre was relaunched in 2019 with a mission to help the local community access social justice in the areas of employment law and welfare benefits, areas of law that had been taken out of the legal aid system in 2012 and therefore denying people without means, access to early legal advice.

It has since been expended to include, amongst other things, domestic abuse and IP.  What’s exciting is that it is continuing to grow with two new posts I helped secure just as I was stepping down. Under Anjali’s leadership it is thriving!

Brunel Legal Advice Centre 1

I am delighted that students now have so many opportunities to gain real-life legal experience in diverse setting which sets them apart from students from other law schools. For example, our students had the chance to participate in multiple practice-oriented workshops, one of them led by members of GE Aviation’s legal team.

A memorable day, and another milestone for the Law School, was in May 2019 when we were shortlisted by an independent panel for the Lawworks and Attorney General Student awards for Best Pro Bono contribution by a Law School for the Athens Refugee Project. The award ceremony took place in Parliament on 01 May.


On the back of that, the award-winning Brunel Law Refugee Project continued to expand: with more successful instalments of a week-long educational volunteering experience. This initiative was first run in 2015 by Professor Alexandra Xanthaki, a leading expert on minority and migration rights in international law, in response to the unfolding European refugee crisis. It then led to the launch of the ground-breaking Law, Policy & Practice MA developed in collaboration with the Greek Ombudsman for Human Rights, Dr Andreas Pottakis, who we also hosted for a talk to students and staff. He helped us instil the programme with critical insights on policy and current practices regarding refugee rights and migration.

Finally, reaching out and building close relationship with BLS’ alumni community to benefit our students was another personal highlight for me.  A few examples: Brunel Law School alumni event at the House of Commons, Tony Coyne joining Brunel Law School as Honorary Professor of Law, the new advisory board for the development of the Brunel Law School's exciting future, and the inspirational talk Brunel graduate Eniola Aluko gave at an alumni event.

In 2018, I launched a permanent Alumni Exhibition in our Atrium which features the diverse body of successful graduates of BLS. Gender split is 50/50 and all portraits and profiles are in black and white to showcase our rich and diverse community where you can aim high, as long as you have the right mindset, drive and ambition to get to where you want. Most of those featured on our walls are from ethnic minorities background to match and provide role models for our current body of students. Each year one additional alumni profile is added to the exhibition.


Our latest addition in 2022 is Haleemah Farooq, a visually impaired aspiring criminal barrister who worked as a casework officer for the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner. She has previously worked as a Caseworker to Rt Hon David Lammy MP for Tottenham in his parliamentary office. Haleemah is keen to raise awareness for people with disabilities and did this in her time in Parliament where her suggestions were implemented. 

6. Brunel Law School is a very diverse and welcoming place, with students and staff coming from dozens of different countries and continents. How did you work to establish such an inclusive and diverse environment for students and staff, and what steps did you take to address issues of equality and inclusion?

That is good to hear. I can assure you it wasn’t when I joined the law School min 2016. I was keen to build a vibrant academic community with global staff from different nationalities (we now have 24 nationalities represented), and strong BAME representation to offer diverse School representation for students.

This diversity is likewise a vital ingredient for an open and collaborative working atmosphere of continuous dedication with devotion from a community of educators. We were the first department in the College to be awarded the Athena Swan Bronze Medal for gender equality in 2019 (led by the now new Head, Prof. Jurgita Malinauskaite).

I ensured promotion of four female colleagues to Chair positions during tenure. I appointed our first E&D Director with a lived experience. He was an ECR at the time, but it didn’t matter. I successfully abolished some pay gaps between female and male Professors. I ensured 50/50 gender equality in our Department Management Board positions after department independence in August 2017. In short, I lead from the front on this.

In February 2021, we hosted the first ever online screening and first interview with the cast and director of award-winning documentary ‘Becoming Black Lawyers’. I insisted on conducting the interviews myself.

Black Lives Matter

I am acutely aware that such dedication to EDI must be a continuous effort, i.e., it takes collaboration and participation from devoted community members to ensure our efforts continue to be realised. For example, in September 2022, we awarded the first two full BARBRI- BLS scholarships (50% paid by BLS and 50% by BARBRI).

We are proud to be the first Law School in the UK to offer these full scholarships to our students. We have a passionate commitment to and a strong track record in supporting students from disadvantaged backgrounds, ensuring that they get the best chance in getting rewarding graduate jobs.

7. Looking forward, what advice do you have for your successor as Head of School, Prof. Jurgita Malinauskaite, and what do you hope to see the School achieve in the coming years?

Jurgita is very experienced, capable and has a clear vision for the Law School. She doesn’t need my advice. After all, she has been at BLS longer than I have been, which puts her in a unique position to understand the working from within at all levels. She also got promoted internally, which again gives her unique perspective. If I had to choose a few things to focus on then I would say:

First, give yourself time. Things don’t happen overnight. Secondly, it gets easier with time; it really does. The first year for me was chaotic, hard and unpredictable. But we have such a great community and colleagues that together we can overcome anything. Oh yes, and finally, will it be demanding and challenging?

Absolutely! But, however demanding the job is going to be for her, it is also enormously rewarding, and a great privilege to be able to serve our wonderful community, which I know Jurgita will cherish.