Researcher in Spotlight: Christopher Phiri
The Researcher in Spotlight is a series which introduces the researchers of the Faculty of Law. We are presenting now Doctoral Candidate Christopher Phiri.
Position in the Faculty of Law: Doctoral Researcher
Degrees: LLM, MBA, LLB
Fields of interest: Public Law, Legal Philosophy, Law and Economics, Business Law
Describe your career path. What led you to where you are today?
My professional journey has been one of twists and turns. I began my career in Zambia as a general legal practitioner in a private law firm. This was in keeping with my childhood dream of being a lawyer. However, I later left private practice and joined the judiciary where I worked as a research advocate. My initial plan was to spend no more than five years working for the judiciary and then return to private practice. But that was not to be.
As a research advocate, my primary responsibility was to assist a judge of the commercial division of the High Court for Zambia in conducting legal research for the purpose of making judicial decisions. I also assisted the judge in writing judgments, rulings, and orders. This experience in the commercial court made me develop an interest in business law. I eventually made a conscious decision to specialise in that area of law, while maintaining my plan to return to private practice.
In my estimation, to become a specialist in business law, I needed not only to know the law but also how business works in general. This was the main reason why I decided to pursue a master’s programme in business administration and, subsequently, a master’s programme in European business law. I therefore left the judiciary after working there for a period of just over three years, not to return to private practice as I had initially planned but to pursue further studies. The combination of business administration and business law exposed me to a wide range of more specialised subfields. This also inspired me to adopt an interdisciplinary research approach in my LLM dissertation, in which I conducted an economic analysis of European corporate takeover law. From then on, I have found it fascinating to analyse legal issues using insights from other disciplines. Indeed, this is what first inspired me to become an academic researcher.
Upon completion of my LLM programme in Sweden, I decided to go back to Zambia to take up a position as a lecturer and to practice law on a part-time basis. Working in academia as a full-time lecturer only served to strengthen my interest in research. This is how I found myself pursuing a doctoral programme based on one of the research topics that I became interested in.
What projects are you currently working on?
I am currently working on my doctoral project. The project explores the interplay between the phenomenon of online political disinformation and freedom of expression. In keeping with my inclination towards interdisciplinary research, my legal analysis draws heavily on scholarly works in the field of political philosophy.
Have your interests evolved since finishing your studies?
Yes, somewhat. As earlier stated, I specialised in European business law at master’s level. I have not necessarily lost interest in business law, but my doctoral project and most of my published works thus far fall in the field of public law. The reason is simple: I just found myself getting fascinated about certain topical issues in public law.
What would you be, if you were not a researcher?
My childhood dream was to be a lawyer. Although I find my current career path more fulfilling, I have not necessarily lost interest in practising law. Practising law would therefore be my natural second choice.
What inspires you?
My research is almost exclusively inspired by current affairs. I cannot think of any other career that I would find more satisfying than one that allows me to make an enlightened contribution to public debate by putting my thoughts in writing, after conducting research.