From Dundee to Strasbourg

Published on 14 July 2023

English Law LLB alumnus Judge Tim Eicke KC, the UK Judge at the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), returned to the University in February to give a lecture on Crises in Europe: a view from the Strasbourg Court.

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Upholding the law is a hefty burden for anyone. Doing so in today’s fast-changing legal landscape makes the demands of the job even more challenging. So imagine the weight of responsibility when you are elected as the UK’s member of the Court which ensures respect for the human rights of 700 million Europeans in the 46 member states of the Council of Europe that have ratified the ECtHR.

But there is little sign of that strain on the face of Tim Eicke KC when he chats about his life before, during and after studying at Dundee. Indeed, hearing a description of the Dundee sunshine further lights up the face of the King’s Counsel, who graduated with an LLB in English Law in 1992.

“I always enjoy visiting Dundee, though it is very different now from when I studied,” he said.

“The city centre has changed beyond recognition. It’s a very different space now – bright and friendly.

“The V&A Dundee is an obvious hotspot as well and I am really excited to come back to see these changes. It’s lovely.”

Tim’s relationship with Dundee started rather unusually. During his studies in German law at the University of Passau, his curiosity turned to the UK, where he had lived for a year as part of a school exchange programme. Despite never having visited Dundee, he wrote to the University, unique at that time for teaching both Scots and English law.

“I received such a lovely letter back. It made me feel very welcome. I had never been to Scotland before but that letter was what took me across the North Sea to Dundee,” Tim said.

Having arrived in Dundee a little older than his contemporaries, Tim acknowledges that his lifestyle in the city was perhaps more sedate than that of students leaving home for the first time. However, he fully embraced university life on the banks of the Tay, gathering with postgraduate students for drinks in the iconic Phoenix Bar, and joining the University volleyball team, with away trips often including a requisite visit to the nearest fish and chip shop for “something fried”.

“I always had an interest in human rights law and I took my opportunities when they arose. The route I have taken to get here has certainly been unusual, but I do know that I owe a lot to my time at Dundee.”

Tim Eicke KC

Tim wearing glasses and talking with hands up

A degree with global appeal

Dundee has a long and rich history of teaching English Law and like Tim Eicke KC, its alumni have reached the very highest levels of the legal profession. The English Law LLB continues to grow and has become ever more international in its composition, with students from England and Northern Ireland learning alongside students seeking to qualify as lawyers in common law jurisdictions across the world, including Canada, the Caribbean, Kenya and Nigeria.

The launch of the LLB Alumni Mentoring Programme in 2022 brought together 15 mentors, now based in the UK, Canada, Ireland and Nigeria. Solicitors and advocates, as well as a barrister, in-house counsel and government adviser, have been sharing knowledge, experience and advice to assist current students as they prepare to take the next steps in their career journey.

However, having been due to return to his studies in Germany, Tim recalls a pivotal moment in his life, when he phoned his father to ask for his blessing to continue his studies in Dundee.

“Near the front of the Tower Building, I remember the small green next to which there was a phone box.

“I remember phoning my father from that phone box – with change in hand – to tell him that I was thinking of staying in Dundee and what he would think of that.

“We had a conversation and I told him that the only disadvantage would be that I couldn’t practise law in Germany, but he was happy for me to stay and that ultimately delivered me the career I have had.”

After graduating from Dundee, Tim’s legal career flourished. Called in 1993, he had a distinguished career at the Bar of England and Wales, taking silk in 2011, and was elected a Bencher of Lincoln’s Inn in 2014.

He practised latterly from Essex Court Chambers in the fields of public and constitutional law, human rights law, EU law and public international law, and regularly appeared in the Court of Justice of the European Union and the European Court of Human Rights, as well as the domestic courts, including the UK Supreme Court.

Since 2016 he has served as the judge elected in respect of the UK at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. In 2017, he returned to his alma mater, receiving an honorary doctorate in front of a packed Caird Hall.

“I’m not entirely sure how I got this job,” he admits, “but I always had an interest in human rights law and I took my opportunities when they arose.

“The route I have taken to get here has certainly been unusual, but I do know that I owe a lot to my time at Dundee.”

Graduate stood talking at the podium
Story category Alumni