Centres, Institutes & Groups

Centre for Empirical Legal Studies

The Centre for Empirical Legal Studies brings together experts across a range of social science disciplines to engage in interdisciplinary research with a bearing on law. The Centre is a world leader of methodological innovation in empirical legal studies, and is helping to build research capacity in the United Kingdom and enable evidence led evolution of justice systems around the world.

Through its current membership, the Centre is able to draw upon expertise in fields as diverse as law, sociology, criminology, statistics, psychology and political science, to bring new perspectives to bear upon the study of law and legal institutions.

The emphasis in the work of the centre is on empirical research investigating the operation and effects of law within the context of the social, economic and political environment. The work of the centre is concerned with the role and function of law, the enforcement of law, compliance with law, resistance to law, the use and experience of law, the impact of law and the character of law itself.

Members’ current research is funded from a variety of national and international research, government and charitable sources. Much of it is carried out at the boundaries of current knowledge and members have pioneered a number of approaches to the empirical study of law, including the use of the randomised control trial in studying the impact of legal advice.

Members of the Centre have been responsible for some of the leading texts in the empirical legal studies tradition and, through these, contributed to real world change in the way that law and legal systems function. For example, access to justice policy around the world has been influenced considerably by Professor Hazel Genn’s ‘Paths to Justice’, Professor Pascoe Pleasence’s ‘Causes of Action’ and the associated work of Dr. Nigel Balmer. The provision of public legal services has likewise been influenced greatly by Professor Richard Moorhead’s legal practice research. Elaine Gender’s collaborative research into the Therapeutic Community (TC) at HMP Grendon Underwood underpins (and is frequently quoted in) much of the Prison Services Core Model Theory Manual.

Members of the centre contribute to a variety of undergraduate and graduate courses, including ‘Law and Social Inquiry’, which provides social science perspective on law, legal process and legal institutions to final year LLB students. Members of the centre also provide specialist research support to the Faculty’s PhD students, as well as supervising a number who are undertaking empirical projects.

Visit the Centre’s website to find out more.