Liz Fisher

Liz Fisher and FamilyPlease write a bit about your background.

I grew up on the edge of a national park in Sydney, Australia. My father died of leukaemia when I was one. My mother had the very challenging task of looking after three children under seven (including my brother who is profoundly intellectually disabled) while retraining as a teacher librarian. I have deep admiration for the way she did extraordinary things in tough circumstances. In my teenage years I got into hiking and canyoning and spent my early years at University working 2 days a week in a hiking and climbing shop. I studied Arts/Law at UNSW and after a year working as a tipstaff for a judge in the Equity Division of the NSW Supreme Court. I came to Oxford to do my doctorate, supervised by Paul Craig. While a graduate student I met Roderick (also in the Faculty). We married in 2000, live in East Oxford, and have two boys (16 and 18).

What led you to a career in academia?

The family narrative is that my becoming an academic was due to my mother regularly leaving me in the library of the further education college she was studying at as a form of childcare when I was little. I did enjoy being among all those books, but I never really imagined myself going into academia until I got to UNSW and came across a set of fabulous academics who fostered in me a deep love of scholarship and teaching.

What are your research interests and why have you chosen those particular areas?

Environmental law and administrative law – both are about how law and legal reasoning evolve in light of new institutions and problems. I am particularly focused on these issues in relation to science. While my work is interdisciplinary, I take a very internal approach to the study of law and focus on legal doctrine. I also work in a range of different national jurisdictions. My most recent book with Sid Shapiro is Administrative Competence: Reimagining Administrative Law (CUP 2020). In it, drawing on history, public administration theory, and legal doctrine, we make an argument that US administrative law has never properly recognised as what it is -  a law of public administration.

What are you working on at the moment?

A few things. I am in the last stages of an edited collection on the NSW Land and Environment Court that I am editing with its Chief Justice. I am working on a fun project with Joanna Bell and Anne Davies on thinking about the legal significance of ‘context’ in judicial review doctrine, and a book on the ‘craft of legal scholarship’ with Sanja Bogojević. My next big project is on legal imagination and environmental futures. Legal imagination is inherent in the practice and study of law – it is the mental constructs we use to determine what is and is not legally relevant. Legal imagination didn’t develop with environmental problems in mind but has had to evolve and expand in light of them. What I am interested in is how it does that so as to ensure robust legal reasoning.

What is your favourite thing to do in your spare time?

Hiking, yoga, and sewing clothes. During lockdown I even taught myself how to quilt. The photo is from a two week hike we did in Kakadu National Park in 2017 (the boys are a lot bigger now and I have more grey hair!)

Who inspires you or has inspired you in the past?

My colleagues and students are a constant source of inspiration. My latest intellectual crush (there have been many……) is Ursula Le Guin – a wise woman who had an acute intellectual empathy for humanity.

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