Simon is a Senior lecturer in law, who joined the Open University Law School 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 theory, criminal theory and international law.
Simon's research covers aspects of history, theory and law, particularly public law. He is interested in the role law plays 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, its theoretical nature, and its 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 (particularly the state of exception and UK and comparative constitutional law).
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 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 '"No one wants the taint of an association with the crimes of Nazism": (Sometimes) in search of the meaning of Nazi Law' (2018) Holocaust Studies. Simon is co-editor of a collection entitled States of Exception: Law, History, Theory, which has recently been published by Routledge.
Simon is co-Chair of undergraduate law modules W203 Public and Criminal Law and W350 Exploring legal boundaries. He is also a module team member on W340 Law, society and culture.
He is an associate lecturer on W203 and W340, and has previously tutored on W350 (2019/20) and LLM module W821 Exploring the boundaries of international law (2017). He previously taught public law and contract law at the University of Nottingham.
He has written various blog posts for different audiences, including:
- Representing Nazi Law: Historians, Lawyers and Interdisciplinary Discourse on the British Association for Holocaust Studies blog.
- Four vlogs on Judging Brexit with Professor Simon Lee, discussing the implications of the UK Supreme Court decision in R (on the application of Miller) v The Prime Minister  UKSC 41
- 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.
Simon has ongoing research collaborations with UK and international scholars, including in particular a series of streams co-convened with Dr Cosmin Cercel and Dr Gian Giacomo Fusco at the Critical Legal Conference.
‘No one wants the taint of an association with the crimes of Nazism’: (Sometimes) in search of the meaning of Nazi Law (2020)
Holocaust Studies: A Journal of Culture and History, 26(1) (pp. 108-122)
The Distorted Jurisprudential Discourse of Nazi Law: Uncovering the ‘Rupture Thesis’ in the Anglo-American Legal Academy (2018-12-31)
International Journal for the Semiotics of Law - Revue internationale de Sémiotique juridique, 31(4) (pp. 745-770)
Introduction: Untimely Considerations on the State of Exception (2020-07-23)
Cercel, Cosmin; Fusco, Gian Giacomo and Lavis, Simon
In: Lavis, Simon; Cercel, Cosmin and Fusco, Gian Giacomo eds. States of Exception: Law, History, Theory. Law and Politics (pp. 1-12)
ISBN : 9780367077167 | Publisher : Routledge
‘The Exception of the Norm in the Third Reich: (Re)Reading the Nazi Constitutional State of Exception (2020-07-23)
In: Cercel, Cosmin; Fusco, Gian Giacomo and Lavis, Simon eds. States of exception: law, history, theory. Law and politics: continental perspectives (pp. 92-116)
ISBN : 9780367077167 | Publisher : Routledge
Nazi Law as Pure Instrument: Natural Law, (Extra-)Legal Terror, and the Neglect of Ideology (2020)
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)
ISBN : 9789004417359 | Publisher : Brill
Nazi Law as Non-law in Academic Discourse (2019-09-05)
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
States of Exception: Law, History, Theory (2020-07-23)
Cercel, Cosmin; Fusco, Gian Giacomo and Lavis, Simon eds.
Law and Politics
ISBN : 978-0367077167 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : Abingdon
The Conundrum of Nazi Law: An Historiographical Challenge to the Anglo-American Jurisprudential Representation of the Nazi Past (2015)
PhD thesis The Open University