LLM Programme

The taught modules offered on the LLM programme vary from year to year. Please check the full list of taught modules list for details of modules running in specific academic years. We make every effort to ensure that every module will be offered, but modules are subject to change and cancellation. You are therefore advised to check this site regularly for further updates throughout the year preceding entry to the LLM programme.

Credit value: 30 credits (12 ECTS)
Module Convenor:
Professor Cheryl Thomas
Intercollegiate teaching: No
Teaching Method:

20 x two-hour seminars

This module utilises 3 main teaching methods:
(1) Seminars with Module Convenor
(2) Special Judicial Guest Seminars
(3) Hands-On Judicial Decision-Making Seminars

Who may enrol: LLM students, Other UCL Masters students
Prerequisites: None
Barred module combinations: LAWSG132A
Core module for specialism: Litigation and Dispute Resolution; Criminal Justice, Family and Social Welfare; Public Law
Practice Assessment: Two practice essays – one in Term 1 and one in Term 2 – on which students receive detailed feedback and indicative grades. These two essays form part of the Final Essay, which accounts for 100% of the grade in the module. So under this system students have written and received feedback and indicative grades on 4,000 words of the Final Essay (6,000 words) well in advance of having to submit the Final Essay.
Assessment method for Masters students: 6,000 word coursework essay
Module Overview

Module summary

This is the only LLM module in judicial studies offered in the UK. This innovative module explores the crucial role judges and courts play in the modern state - and provides students with a unique opportunity to understand what it is like to be a judge, how judges make decisions, what skills they require and what pressures and controversies they face. Leading judges, policy-makers and academic experts share their firsthand knowledge with students through the course's Special Judicial Guest Seminars, and students gain firsthand experience of judicial decision-making through a series of Hands-On Judicial Decision-Making Seminars.

Module syllabus

Term 1:

  • Judges, Decision-Making and Democracy
  • Judicial Studies: The Cutting Edge Study of Judges & Courts
  • How Can We Understand How Judges Make Decisions?
  • Judging in Different Courts & Jurisdictions
  • Judicial Appointments: What Makes a Good Judge?
  • Judicial Diversity & Democracy
  • The Public as Judges: Trial by Jury (2-part topic)
  • The Trappings of Judicial Power: Judicial Culture, Rites & Architecture

Term 2:

  • Courts, Politics & Power: When Judges and Politicians Clash
  • When Judges Punish: Reason & Emotion in Sentencing (2 part topic)
  • Behind the Judge: The Unseen Role of Judicial Assistants
  • Judging on Appeals Courts: Questioning Advocates, Deciding as a Panel, the Art of Judgement Writing (Part of UK Supreme Court Moot & Seminar – 2-part topic)
  • Delivering Judgments (Part of UK Supreme Court Moot & Seminar – 2-part topic)
  • Can Justice be Virtual: The Future for Courts & Judges?

Recommended materials

The Power of Judges, C. Thomas (ed) of C. Guarnieri and P. Pederzoli, OUP (2002)
The Psychology of Judicial Decision-Making, D. Klein and G. Mitchell (eds), OUP (2010)
On Law, Politics and Judicialization, M. Shapiro and A. Stone Sweet OUP (2002)
Are Juries Fair? C. Thomas, MoJ Research Series 10 (2010)
Judges and Their Audiences, L. Baum, PUP (2006)

Preliminary reading

Two module readings that can be downloaded are:

Lawrence Baum, Judges and Their Audiences: A Perspective on Judicial Behaviour, Chapter 1, Princeton University Press (2006)

Cheryl Thomas, Are Juries Fair? Ministry of Justice Research Series 10 (2010)

Other information

Teaching Approach: This module requires active participation by all students in seminars. Students are assigned a series of key questions related to the assigned readings for each seminar and must come prepared to present answers as part of the seminar discussion.

Grading Approach: A Final Essay counts for 100% of the grade. However, under the Portfolio Essay approach most of this essay is written in stages during Terms 1 and 2. This means all students will have written and received feedback from the course convenor on a large part of the Final Essay by the time the Final Essay is due.

There is a special 2 week UK Supreme Court Moot at the end of Term 2, in which LLM students
1. serve either as UK Supreme Court Justices questioning advocates or as advocates in an oral hearing of a UK Supreme Court case
2. deliberate as a court and reach a judgment
3. draft judgments of the court
4. deliver judgments in open court
The oral hearing takes place in the UK Supreme Court itself, and the 2-part seminar ends with a Special Judicial Guest Seminar involving actual UK Supreme Court Justices discussing what it is like to serve on the highest court of appeal.

Prizes for this module: Yes

There is a UCL Judicial Placement Award in this module in which award holders are able to shadow a judge in a range of different courts during Term 3. This is only available to students fully enrolled in LAWSG132.


The application process for the 2014-15 academic session, for entry in September 2014, is now open.

Please refer to the How to apply section for information on the application process.