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‘I love to read, to explore new grounds’

Anna van Duin is currently in the final year of her PhD trajectory.

‘A PhD position offers a unique opportunity to reflect on your field of study, to deepen your knowledge and to broaden your scope. It also gives you time to invest in yourself and learn new skills.’

Anna van Duin

I am a researcher at heart

‘Before starting my PhD research, I worked as a lawyer for more than 6 years. I enjoyed legal practice, especially in the courtroom, but I am a researcher at heart. I love to read, to explore new grounds and to investigate how the law can play a role in solving topical issues. When I saw the vacancy for a PhD in the project “Judges in Utopia” of professor Chantal Mak, I wanted to take on the challenge; I would like to contribute my bit towards the academic and practical debate on the interplay between EU law, national civil procedure and fundamental rights.’

‘A PhD position offers a unique opportunity to reflect on your field of study, to deepen your knowledge and to broaden your scope. It also gives you time to invest in yourself and learn new skills. For example, I have spent some time in Barcelona to improve my Spanish language skills and to analyse case law of Spanish civil courts. Academic writing and thinking is very different from advising and representing clients. The change in perspective provides me with new insights and allows me to connect my experience as a lawyer with more theoretical questions.’


‘I have completed two Master’s programmes: Dutch private law at Leiden University and the Master Juris at Oxford University. After the Dutch master I gained a scholarship to follow a programme in Oxford for postgraduates from non-common law jurisdictions. It was a great experience and I would recommend anyone to study abroad when they can. I worked as a student assistant and later as a research and teaching assistant at the Europa Institute of Leiden University before joining my law firm. I was also given me the opportunity to participate in the Columbia Summer Program in American Law.’

Proposal and approval

‘My PhD proposal consisted of 3,5 pages with my envisaged research question and methodology. In hindsight, I may have been too enthusiastic: my plan was to examine the role of Article 47 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights in European private law adjudication, a complicated and multi-layered subject. In order to fully grasp all dimensions of my research topic, I have narrowed it down to one specific area of private law. The challenge is to find a balance between formulating an innovative research question and sufficiently limiting the scope, to keep it feasible; 3,5 years seems long, but in the end it is not a lot of time to write a book. As an academic, you need a combination of curiosity and common sense to accept your limitations while staying ambitious. After I got the PhD position, I worked 3 more months on my research proposal, and I still keep on developing my thoughts. I found it very helpful to take part in the PhD training programme of the University of Amsterdam as well as the Ius Commune Research School.’

An average day as a PhD student

‘My schedule has changed over time. In the beginning, I felt I had so much freedom that I almost did not know what to do with it. Now, I appreciate the flexibility. On an average day, I work from home in the morning and do some writing. Then I go to the university to have lunch with colleagues with whom I can share any thoughts or doubts I might have. Other days I have a meeting with my supervisors or with other colleagues; I am involved in setting up a new Master course for next year, which is part of Amsterdam Law Practice (ALP). I try to do sports or go for a walk a few times a week, which helps to clear my head and stay focused.’

‘I also love teaching’

‘What I like the most, is the mix of reading, thinking and writing and attending workshops and conferences. It is great to specialize further in a particular area of law and to engage with lawyers, judges and academics. I also love teaching, so I have gladly accepted the opportunity to teach classes.’