From the ‘Stories of our Law School’ Podcast Series. By Grace Williams.
At the heart of the UTAS Law School is a man of humble beginnings. Rick Snell has overcome many obstacles to enter the world of legal academia. As Associate Professor and Deputy Dean, Rick is passionate about administrative law and freedom of information. In his latest briefing to four Supreme Court Judges of The Peoples Republic of China, Rick spoke on the topic of freedom of information in the Chinese context.
As we sat down to discuss ‘what a briefing to four Supreme Court Judges consists of?’ I was pleasantly surprised to find out that our conversation lead to other unexpected areas. I was shocked to discover that such an eloquent man was once diagnosed with a speech impediment, which he still struggles with. I was even more surprised to discover that growing up he wasn’t considered ‘the sharpest tool in the shed’. Rick’s journey through the law can be epitomised by a single word: unexpected. His online memoirs found on his website, cover his journey in detail.
We discussed the difficulties that he faces in his role as Deputy Dean and what keeps him so passionate as a legal academic. Rick’s passion for his work, his love for teaching, and interacting with students is what makes him such a vibrant educator. The frank exchange of ideas in a free and open context is what excites him most about his role as an administrative law lecturer.
One of the major difficulties Rick faces in his role is the lack of student and staff interactions. It saddened me to hear him reflect on a time when intense discussions were occurring in the corridors of the Law School. Having been at the Law School for 27 years, he has seen an enormous amount of technological change come through. Rick mentioned being disheartened by the way students ignore one another in their interactions at the Law School. He commented on the growing trend of faces in phones and headphones in, with people rarely acknowledge one another: a change which is fostered by the emergence of mobile phones and social media. Though he is an enthusiastic user of social media and frequently posts his thoughts online, he believes that social media should be a tool that facilitates community building. Having online connections doesn’t remove the human need for in person kindness and acknowledgement that can be achieved simply by smiling and saying hello. For Rick seeing smiling and talkative students is what makes working at the Law School a rewarding experience.
If I could sum up our discussion in a single phrase, it would be ‘do what you love’. Rick is certainly a person who does what he loves. True success is not attained when perfection is achieved, but when joy is found in the everyday moments of life.