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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 (currently non-practising) 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 research covers aspects of history, theory and law, particularly public law. He is interested in the role law players in authoritarian regimes, past and present, including to communicate ideology, regulate compliance, and foster consent.

Much of his research is in the nexus between law, history and theory in relation to Nazi Germany, including the history of the legal system in the Third Reich, it's theoretical nature, and it's implications for the concept and practice of law today; as well as the representation of Nazi law in academic legal and historical discourse. He is also interested in research in public law (particular the state of exception and UK and comparative constitutional law).

Simon's PhD thesis 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 involves examining the relationship between ideology and law in the Third Reich in order to understand the role of law in constituting consent in Nazi Germany and shaping the normative environment.  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 historical and theoretical 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 Anglo-American academic discourse of Nazi law, and the idea of Nazi law as a pure instrument, both of which are due for publication in 2019.

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 programme. 

He is an associate lecturer on W203 (since October 2016) and W340 (since October 2018). He has also tutored on W821 Exploring the Boundaries of International Law on the LLM programme (2017). He previously taught public law and contract law at the University of Nottingham.

Impact and engagement

Simon is the academic consultant for series 2 of the OU/BBC co-production The Prosecutors, and authored the OpenLearn materials associated with this series.

He has written various blog posts for different audiences, including:

Day 80, Year of #Mygration: Interdisciplinary Belonging Symposium on the OU's Year of Mygration project.

The Prosecutors – Consulting on Series 2 and the Criminal Law Principle of Conspiracy on the OU's Open Justice blog.

External collaborations

As well as the proposed collection on states of exception, 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 (2015-2018).


The Distorted Jurisprudential Discourse of Nazi Law: Uncovering the ‘Rupture Thesis’ in the Anglo-American Legal Academy (2018-12-31)
Lavis, Simon
International Journal for the Semiotics of Law - Revue internationale de Sémiotique juridique, 31(4) (pp. 745-770)
‘No one wants the taint of an association with the crimes of Nazism’: (Sometimes) in search of the meaning of Nazi Law (2018-09-06)
Lavis, Simon
Holocaust Studies: A Journal of Culture and History ((Early Access))
Nazi Law as Non-law in Academic Discourse (2019-09-05)
Lavis, Simon
In: Skinner, Stephen ed. Ideology and Criminal Law: Fascist, National Socialist and Authoritarian Regimes (pp. 59-76)
ISBN : 978-1-50991-081-6 | Publisher : Hart Publishing | Published : Oxford
Nazi Law as Pure Instrument: Natural Law, (Extra-)Legal Terror, and the Neglect of Ideology (2019)
Lavis, Simon
In: Klimaszewska, Anna and Gałędek, Michał eds. Modernisation, National Identity, and Legal Instrumentalism: Studies in Comparative Legal History (Vol. II: Public Law) (pp. 192-216 (In Press))
ISBN : 9789004417359 | Publisher : Brill