Name: Christopher Stackpoole

Hometown: Innisfail, Queensland, Australia

Extracurricular interests: Chess, judo

Postgraduate degree: PhD in law

Life before Catz

"When I applied for a PhD at the University of Cambridge, I was completing my MPhil in Jurisprudence at the University of Oxford as a Clarendon Scholar. In the end, I was in the very fortunate position of securing both Oxford’s Clarendon Scholarship to continue my studies there and Cambridge’s Harding Distinguished Postgraduate Scholarship. I was keen to learn from Professor Dame Sarah Worthington, Director of the Cambridge Private Law Centre, and I’m pleased I chose to make the move to Cambridge.

"Before pursuing postgraduate studies, I gained a breadth of experience of the real-world application of the law as a legal researcher for the Queensland University of Technology, an associate to the Chief Justice at the Supreme Court of Queensland, a foreign policy officer for the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and a solicitor at King & Wood Mallesons."

Life at Catz

"The College’s main site and the University accommodation provided to couples are located in the heart of Cambridge, so my partner Acacia and I have had plenty of opportunities for exploring this beautiful city.

"Catz also provides a very supportive environment of postgraduate students. Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, the postgraduate community has been able to come together for regular online events and carefully managed in-person events."

Postgraduate studies

"There is dire need for further research into specific remedies to improve certainty in the legal system in England and Commonwealth countries. My research will explore the normative and conceptual foundations of specific remedies, which are orders that compel a defendant to do that which he or she has most reason to do at the time of judgment. It provides an account of the conditions precedent and of defeasance to specific orders which is not predicated on the distinction between the historical Courts of Common Law and Chancery."

The Harding Distinguished Postgraduate Scholars Programme

"As the first person in my family to undertake tertiary education, I can confidently say that I would not have been able to start my PhD at Cambridge without the generous support of the programme. The scholarship is genuinely life-changing and will allow me to broaden my horizons by attending conferences, thanks to the research allowance available to me each year of my studies.

"I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to cultivate social relationships with the other scholars, learning about their fascinating courses of study and sharing problems. An outsider perspective on the complexities that we can encounter during a PhD is a great way to reframe problems in more simple terms and identify the best way forward."

Advice for undergraduates thinking of applying for postgraduate studies

"For private law students, it is worth spending time considering an academic career if you are motivated by making a difference to improving the law – it offers the chance to have a direct and tangible impact on the formulation of policy to produce more just outcomes.

"Having experienced legal practice, I find that undertaking PhD studies can be more intellectually rewarding. While academia has room for improvement, it still offers working conditions and a work-life balance that you won’t find in most junior positions at law firms. An academic career is also more portable, allowing you to work in new locations without being limited to a few jurisdictions.

"Next, I’d recommend figuring out if there is a specific area of research that you are sufficiently passionate about to motivate you for the full duration of a PhD (3–4 years). Once you have an idea of the topics that most interest you, try reaching out to academics already working in the field and you might get a feel for a potential research supervisor who would be a good fit.

"Finally, don’t ignore extra-curricular activities! Taking up as many opportunities as possible will provide enriching experiences but also strengthen your applications."