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Dr Simon Lavis

Profile summary

  • Central Academic Staff
  • Lecturer in Law
  • The Faculty of Business and Law
  • The Open University Law School
  • The Law School
  • simon.lavis

Professional biography

Simon joined the Open University Law School as a Lecturer in Law in October 2013. Prior to this he studied for a PhD in Law at the University of Nottingham, which he was awarded in 2015. Simon initially completed undergraduate and masters degrees in history at the University of Sheffield, specialising in historical theory and the history of Nazi Germany, before undertaking the GDL and LPC at the College of Law, Guildford. He trained and qualified as a solicitor at commercial firm DLA Piper UK LLP between 2007-2009 and re-entered academia via an LLM from the University of Birmingham, in which he studied aspects of legal and criminal theory and international law.

Research interests

Simon's PhD thesis, titled 'The conundrum of Nazi law: an historiographical challenge to the Anglo-American jurisprudential representation of the Nazi past', is concerned with the historical and contemporary implications of the period of National Socialist rule in Germany, as well as the way in which legal and historical knowledge and meaning are constructed. It explores how legal scholars, and those from related disciplines, write about the Nazi past and the impact this has on the way in which this period is perceived and understood as having legal and historical significance. His thesis counters the theoretical assumptions that lead to the exclusion of the Nazi experience of law in the construction of legal knowledge. It also examines and develops encounters between law and other disciplines, history in particular, in writing about Nazi Germany, in order to trace parallel approaches between these subject-areas and make further connections across these disciplines.

Simon's current research is an extension of this area and involves examining the nexus between law, history and theory in relation to Nazi Germany, as well as the relationship between ideology and law in the Third Reich in order to understand the role of law in shaping the normative environment of consensus. His recent publications include 'The Distorted Jurisprudential Discourse of Nazi Law: Uncovering the ‘Rupture Thesis’
in the Anglo-American Legal Academy'
(2018) International Journal for the Semiotics of Law, and he is currently working on a research mongraph based on the PhD thesis, an edited collection on the state of exception with Cosmin Cercel of the University of Nottingham and Gian Giacomo Fusco, University of Kent, and book chapters on the role of 'non-law' in the academic discourse of Nazi law, and the instrumentalisation of Nazi law.

Simon is also interested in research in public law (particular the state of exception, judicial review and constitutional law), 20th century US legal and constitutional history, and criminal law theory.

Teaching interests

Simon is Module chair of W203 Public and Criminal Law at Level 2 of the Open University LLB programme. He is also a module team member on W340 and W350. Since August 2017, he has been Level 1 lead on the LLB. 

He is also an associate lecturer on W203 and on W821 Exploring the Boundaries of International Law on the LLM programme. He previously taught public law and contract law at the University of Nottingham.

External collaborations

Simon has ongoing research collaborations with UK and international scholars, including in particular a series of streams co-convened with Dr Cosmin Cercel at the Critical Legal Conference (2015-2017).


The Distorted Jurisprudential Discourse of Nazi Law: Uncovering the ‘Rupture Thesis’ in the Anglo-American Legal Academy (2018)
Lavis, Simon
International Journal for the Semiotics of Law - Revue internationale de Sémiotique juridique (pp. 1-26 (Early Access))