Centre for Empirical Legal Studies



Find out more about the Centre for Empirical Legal Studies


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 many new approaches to the empirical study of law.


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’ study, and Professor Pascoe Pleasence and Dr. Nigel Balmer’s stewardship of the English and Welsh Civil and Social Justice Survey. The provision of public legal services has likewise been influenced greatly by Professor Richard Moorhead's legal practice research.

Professor Cheryl Thomas continues to undertake ground-breaking research in judicial decision-making. 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 enables final year LLB students to undertake a small-scale empirical legal project under expert supervision. 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.