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School of Law

Professor Nigel Spencer, BA (1st Class Hons) (London), PhD (London), Accredited Executive Coach (WABC)


Professor of Education Innovation and Professional Practice

Room Number: Mile End
Twitter: @DrNigelSpencer


Nigel Spencer is Professor of Education Innovation and Professional Practice at Queen Mary University of London. He has been working closely with the Law School since 2014 and, with Christina Perry and Valsamis Mitsilegas, co-created the School’s innovative Law in Practice programme with global law firm Reed Smith LLP. Nigel is also Director for Queen Mary's Hub for Professional Practice, which aims to impact the future of practice through research-informed life-long education, and works closely with the School’s Legal Advice Centre, and sits on its Advisory Board.

Following an early academic career leading international, inter-disciplinary research projects exploring cultural change, identity and group dynamics, Nigel worked in Professional Services Firms for 20 years, initially in a client-facing role at PricewaterhouseCoopers. For 13 years, he then held senior talent development roles at two international law firms.

In these law firms Nigel was Global Director of Learning and Development and was responsible for designing and implementing firm-wide talent development strategies. A qualified Executive Coach, one major focus for Nigel was associate and partner development and assessment, often embedding mentoring and coaching into programmes in order to create sustainable behaviour change.

Nigel worked with Senior and Managing Partners, and the Boards at these firms, creating a number of award-winning programmes for different phases of lawyer careers, focusing especially on experiential learning strategies:

  • New undergraduate law degrees and graduate MBA programmes which embedded workplace experience.
  • Associate / partner client relationship and leadership programmes.
  • Career direction programmes for established equity partners.
  • Senior partner transition and succession planning programmes.

During this time, Nigel also led organisational development initiatives as law firms responded to the disruption in their industry. These included creating the first ‘Innovation Hub’ in a global law firm as a client-facing collaboration space, helping the firm to evolve its future service delivery and working with the legal tech community to drive this initiative.

In addition, Nigel contributed at senior Committee and Board level over many years to projects which aimed to broaden access to the legal profession, and enhance inclusion, working with diverse groups including secondary schools and bodies such as the Prince’s Trust, PRIME, Aspiring Solicitors, the BLD Foundation, and the 30% Club. Nigel has spoken at conferences about broadening access strategies, both nationally and internationally.

In 2017, Nigel moved to Saïd Business School, University of Oxford, as a Senior Client Director in the Executive Education team (where he is still an Associate Fellow). At Oxford, Nigel contributed to executive leadership programmes and practitioner research projects, specialising in leadership development within the professional services sector. He created the School’s award-winning practitioner research series with Meridian West on how the strategic use of learning can create competitive advantage in professional services. In addition, Nigel led projects looking at the future of Executive Education and how the design of educational programmes leads to learning impact and behavioural change.

Nigel’s research focuses on a broad range of areas related to innovation in leadership development in the legal sector, and professional services more broadly, future models of education and lifelong learning:

  • Evolving career paths and the future skill sets of lawyers, and those working in professional services more broadly.
  • The impact of embedding coaching in leadership development programmes.
  • Leadership and client relationship development in the legal sector.
  • Uses of technology and ‘nudge’ learning methodologies to create behavioural change.
  • ‘Laboratory’ learning methods in education, connecting learning programmes with the workplace.
  • Future models of education, universities and lifelong learning.

More broadly, Nigel co-chaired the UK’s national body of Legal Education professionals (the Legal Education Training Group) for a number of years and now sits on its Advisory Panel. As Chair, he worked with international Business Schools to conduct research into coaching, leadership development and strategy. Nigel has also held Board roles at international Higher Education Research Institutes and at the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA). Nigel is also a member of Oxford University’s Saïd Business School Coaching Community, coaching on the Saïd Business School’s MBA and executive development programmes.

Undergraduate Teaching

M130 Law in Practice


Leadership development, coaching, law firm strategy and management.

Funded research

  • 1988-date: More than 20 research awards for doctoral and postdoctoral research from national and international bodies (in the UK and US) including the British Academy, Humanities Research Board, Leverhulme Trust and various College and University research bodies in Oxford.
  • 1989-1997: Senior leadership and management roles on international interdisciplinary research projects at doctoral and postdoctoral level in the UK, Greece and Turkey.

Conferences and conference papers

  • 2021: “Tomorrow’s legal teams: roles, education, and training”, Unlocking the Potential of AI for English Law Conference, Oxford.
  • 2021: “Effective mentoring schemes in your firm”, LexisNexis expert seminar (with Mike Mister, Partner, PSFI).
  • 2021: “Converting insight into action”, Managing Partners’ Forum Next Generation Innovation Conference.
  • 2021: “Next steps for legal education and training in England and Wales”, Westminster Legal Policy Forum keynote seminar.
  • 2020: “The changing legal world and the modern lawyer”, Keynote presentation for BPP’s LPC Employability & Professional Development Week (London)
  • 2019: “Building momentum for coaching and mentoring in the legal sector: a 15-year experiential journey”, keynote presentation at the conference, “Coaching today for a better tomorrow, flourishing communities and organisations’, The Wales Academy for Professional Practice and Applied Research’ (Swansea).
  • 2019: “Innovation in legal education: preliminary findings on the impact of creating a workplace-focused law degree on student skills growth, degree results and employment outcomes” (with Christina Perry, Queen Mary University of London, and Prof. Sue Prince, University of Exeter), Society of Legal Scholars Annual Conference, University of Central Lancashire (Preston).
  • 2019: “Re-imagining professional services talent development strategies for an automated world” Humanity and technology, Changeboard Future Talent Conference 2019 (London)
  • 2019: “The rise of the in-house lawyer” (with Deepak Malhotra, former General Counsel), King’s College London Professional Law Institute lecture series (London)
  • 2018: “The ‘Poly-technic’ future of professional services firms: creating and leading the professionals of the future”, Managing Partners Forum Leadership Summit (London)
  • 2018: “New partner mentoring in law firms: a guide for leaders” (with Mike Mister, Møller Institute LexisNexis invited practitioner guest speaker, webinar (London)
  • 2018: “Developing competencies for future organisational goals in professional services” (with Sally Calverley), LexisNexis invited practitioner guest speaker, webinar (London)
  • 2018: “Encouraging diversity in tomorrow’s lawyers: who’s responsible?”, Keynote presentation, Queen Mary University of London, School of Law practitioner seminar series (London)
  • 2017: “Strategies for the changing nature of work: engaging Millennials”, Strategic HR Taskforce workshop on Talent Development
  • 2017: "Innovating to create the workforce of the future: practical workplace strategies for apprentices, graduates & undergraduates” (with Jenny Pelling), Legal Education & Training Group annual conference
  • 2014: “Utilising MBA graduates to optimise strategic organisational success", International Talent Professionals Council - Understanding Talent: Generation Y, conference presentation
  • 2014: “The challenges of leadership coaching in law firms: enabling individual ‘Resourceful clients’ to make organisational-level ‘Changed Worlds’” The British Psychological Society, SGCP 4th International Congress of Coaching Psychology.
    2013: "Leadership, a non-hierarchical concept: enabling leadership development at multiple career phases", Keynote speaker, Strategic HR Network “Leadership & Talent” conference London
  • 2013: "Pupils into teachers: how creative 'Reverse mentoring' programmes can deliver leadership development experiences for early career professionals". National Peer Awards conference presentation
  • 2012: "How to create an internal coaching faculty" Legal Education Group Conference
  • 2011: "The changed economy of legal knowledge: response through a radical change to the legal trainee career path with an MBA programme" British Academy of Management Annual Conference, London. (Joint conference paper/article with Dr. Katie Best, LSE, and Des Woods, Møller PSF Group Cambridge.)
  • 2010: "Making the business case for coaching: a case study from the legal sector", NHS National Mentoring and Coaching Conference


Conference papers, case study writing and publications on Executive Education, leadership development, coaching, graduate career paths and the private education sector. Academic (peer reviewed) publications on cultural and social change, power, hierarchy and group dynamics (5 books and over 30 articles).

  • 2011: Executive Education teaching case study: “Nick Harrison: FS Practice Leadership” (Joint-author with Dr Henry Marsden, Managing Partner, Møller PSF Group, Cambridge University).

Practice-based research publications (select recent examples):

  • 2020: “Alumni as lifelong learners in the University of the Future”. Centre for Commercial Law Studies Alumni Newsletter (Queen Mary University of London).
  • 2019: “Do lawyers need to learn code? A practitioner perspective on the ‘Polytechnic’ future of legal education” (joint article with Alex Smith), in C Denvir (ed.) Modernising Legal Education (Cambridge University Press).
  • 2019: “Creating effective learning ‘eco-systems’ for the future world of professional services”, Saïd Business School, University of Oxford. (Joint article with Clive Web, ACCA).
  • 2019: “Creating the ‘lawyer of the future’ in times of disruption: the power of building a new world of on-going, workplace-focused education". Oxford Law Faculty research project, Unlocking the potential of Artificial Intelligence for English Law, guest blog.
  • 2018-20: Creating competitive advantage in professional services firms, White Paper series (Oxford).
  • 2017: Leadership Pathways: creating future leaders in sport and business (research report with Dr Clive Reeves of the Leaders Performance Institute).
  • 2014: “Coaching and mentoring as a key leadership development tool across legal generations” (joint article with Jon Stokes), in Rebecca Normand-Hochman (ed.) Mentoring and coaching for lawyers: building partnerships for success (International Bar Association, London)
  • 2014: “Creating value for clients through learning partnerships” Training Journal.
  • 2014: “Using learning expertise for client service”, Practice Management, Professional Marketing.
  • 2013: The Leader Board. Practice research White Paper with KPMG. (Joint publication with Roger Parker, and Mary-Anne O. Anderson
  • 2012: “Latent talent: how to align partner development with firm strategy”, Practice Management Managing Partner. (Joint article with Des Woods, Chairman, Møller PSF Group Cambridge.)
  • 2011: “Odysseus the ‘resourceful client’? Human agency, coaching and change from Antiquity to the City”, Replay Business, Guest Blog
  • 2011: “Lessons for the future: implementing a new MBA programme in the legal sector”, Legal Week
  • 2011: “Coach drivers: developing the use of executive coaching in law firms”, The Lawyer.


1993 onwards: Informal supervision of Masters and PhD students.

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