Dr Lydia Bracken is a lecturer at the School of Law and was recently appointed Assistant Dean Equality, Diversity and Inclusion within the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Limerick.
Lydia is a graduate of UCC (BCL, 2010; LLM, 2011; PhD, 2015) and the Honorable Society of King’s Inns (Barrister-at-Law, 2012). She researches in the areas of child and family law, with a particular focus on the legal recognition of ‘non-traditional’ and ‘new’ family forms. Lydia is also a member of the Council of Gaisce – The President’s Award.
I am a passionate advocate for equality, diversity and inclusion. As a lawyer, I feel that I have a professional responsibility to respect these principles and to ensure that every role that I take on has a positive impact in these areas.
My research is concentrated on child and family law with a particular focus on LGBT family rights. I have published my academic research in this area in national and international journals and my forthcoming monograph, Same-Sex Parenting and the Best Interests Principle, will be published with Cambridge University Press in 2019. I have also applied my research for the benefit of stakeholders to support equality, diversity and inclusion. For example, I provide ongoing legal support to LGBT Ireland, a national support service for LGBT people and their families, in relation to securing legal recognition for LGBT families in Ireland.
My advocacy training as a lawyer has allowed me to engage effectively in this role to speak on behalf of communities to enhance their rights.
In my teaching role, I always encourage students to develop new perspectives on issues pertaining to equality, diversity and inclusion and to consider the role of law as a tool to break down societal prejudices. I have also developed outreach projects to engage with underrepresented communities.
For example, in 2018 and 2019, I worked with the UL Access Office to develop a ‘Street Law’ teaching practicum (through UL Engage) where final year law students teach law at a local DEIS secondary school under my supervision. This project provides the law students with a unique opportunity to advance their legal knowledge and to develop their clinical legal skills while at the same time providing a valuable service to the outside community. The secondary school students benefit hugely from this experience as they learn about the legal system; about their rights within that legal system; and have the opportunity to practice their own presentation, advocacy, and teamwork skills. This project allows me as a lecturer to engage with underrepresented communities and to capitalise on academic resources for their benefit.
My other administrative roles have allowed me to engage with a diverse student cohort. For example, as Course Director of the BA in Applied Policing and Criminal Justice, I work directly with adult learners who are seeking to advance their legal knowledge. As Assistant Dean Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (AHSS), I work to advance the equality, diversity and inclusion agenda within the Faculty of AHSS, focusing on a range of areas and staff and student supports.
I have been privileged to work with many inspiring men and women since joining academia who have instilled the principles of equality, diversity and inclusion into my current practice. These passionate mentors inspired me to put myself forward for transformative roles and their encouragement has enabled me to do so. Support from colleagues and a collegiate working environment are essential in any workplace and I feel that we all have a responsibility to ‘pay it forward’ to create a working culture that allows all staff to realise their full potential.