UCL Faculty of Laws

Prof Nigel Balmer

Prof Nigel Balmer

Honorary Professor

Faculty of Laws


Joined UCL
1st Apr 2021

Research summary

Nigel's research focusses on the application of social science and modern quantitative methods to explore how the public understand and interact with the law. His research is multidisciplinary and collaborative, adapting methods from a broad range of disciplines, including psychology, epidemiology, education, mathematics and statistics. His research interests include exploring the role of law in everyday life, public understanding of the law/legal rights, the experience of and response to legal issues, the interaction between legal and health problems, design of legal services, legal aid, access to justice, empirical research methodology and statistics. He has also conducted research in sports science/sports psychology and will happily tell you how far or high people can jump and provide a medal table forecast for the next Olympics.

 His most recent research projects include providing global guidance on the conduct of legal need surveys (to be published by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), in collaboration with the Open Society Foundations) and modern psychometric measurement of legal capability and attitudes to justice (for The Legal Education Foundation).

Teaching summary

Much of Nigel's teaching at aims to introduce students to empirical legal research and social science research methods. He also has a specific interest in teaching related to the impact of advice, legal aid, design of legal services and public understanding of the law. Previous teaching has included the ‘Law in the Real World’ LLM module which introduces students to key social science research designs and methods, before discussing key empirical studies and the interaction between research and policy. Current teaching includes the undergraduate ‘Law and Social Inquiry course’, which develops the idea of exploring law from a social science perspective, and encourages students to conduct their own empirical research projects. This aims to allow students to engage with and seek to answers to key empirical questions for the future of law, legal practice and justice institutions.


He also integrates empirical research and a social science approach into non-empirical based courses. This includes empirical sessions as part of the undergraduate BASc ‘Law in Action’ and LLB ‘Access to Justice’ programmes.


He also contributes to the PhD programme, conducting seminars on empirical research methods. Since joining UCL, he has supervised eight PhD students where empirical research formed a component of their studies. 


Liverpool John Moores University
Doctorate, Doctor of Philosophy | 2001
University of Stirling
First Degree, Bachelor of Science | 1998


Nigel is Professor of Law and Social Statistics at UCL. He is also Head of Data, Design and Analysis at PPL, an independent researcher and consultant. He is a leading expert in empirical legal studies, with particular expertise in statistical analysis and empirical research methodology. He is also co-director of the Centre for Empirical Legal Studies at UCL. He works across a broad range of projects (spanning civil and criminal justice) though he has specific interest in the application of social science and modern quantitative methods to explore how the general public understand and interact with the law. All of his research is multidisciplinary and collaborative, with a specific focus on methodological innovation and rigour. His work adapts methods from a broad range of disciplines, including psychology, epidemiology, education, health, mathematics and statistics. He is also a chartered statistician and chartered scientist.


Nigel's work is methodologically innovative and he has been the first to introduce a number of methods into legal research; including multilevel modelling, discrete time event history analysis and most recently modern psychometrics (for legal capability scale development). He has published over 100 academic papers, reports, book chapters and books, including research in leading journals in law, social policy, epidemiology, geography and health. Much of his research is designed for a policy audience and his survey work (in collaboration with Professor Pascoe Pleasence) has become central to the development of access to justice policy in England and Wales. It also has international significance, supporting global access to justice initiatives and progress under the United Nation's Sustainable Development Goal 16. Nigel also works with a number of organisations in other jurisdictions, in particularly in Australia with colleagues at the Law and Justice Foundation of New South Wales.