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: 15 credits (6 ECTS)
Module Convenor:
Professor Cheryl Thomas
Intercollegiate teaching: No
Teaching Method:

10 x two-hour seminars

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

Who may enrol: LLM students
Prerequisites: None
Barred module combinations: LAWSG132
Practice Assessment: One practice essay on which students receive detailed feedback and indicative grades.
Assessment method: 3,000 word essay


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.

This course explores not how judges 'should' make decisions but what are the factors that affect how judges do in fact make decision. It is rooted in the empirical study of judicial decision-making (Judicial Studies) which has been pioneered in the UK at UCL by the UCL Judicial Institute.

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.

This course also runs the UK Supreme Court Moot – this moot is held in the UK Supreme Court and, unlike all other Moots, students serve as the Supreme Court Justice hearing oral argument, questioning the advocates and writing and delivering the court’s judgment. In preparation for the Moot, the class is advised by at least one recently retired senior appellate judge.

Module syllabus

  • Judicial Studies: The Cutting Edge Study of Judges and Courts
  • How Can We Understand How Judges Make Decisions?
  • Judging in Different Courts and Jurisdictions
  • The Public as Judges: Trial by Jury
  • When Politicians and Judges Clash
  • Judicial Appointments: What Makes a Good Judge?
  • Ethical Dilemmas for Judges
  • When Judges Punish: Reason & Emotion in Judicial Sentencing
  • Appellate Judging: Hearing Oral Argument and Judgment Writing

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 Term 2 through a practice essay. This means all students will have written and received feedback from the convenor on a large part of the Final Essay by the time the Final Essay is due.

Prizes for this module: Students who take this module are able to apply for the UCL Judicial Placement Award, in which students shadow a judge during summer or autumn 2015.


The application process for the 2015-16 academic session is now open.

Please note, for the 2015-16 intake, we are not accepting the TOEFL test. If you have an English condition to meet, you must take one of the alternative tests listed here instead.