UCL Faculty of Laws

Prof Pascoe Pleasence

Prof Pascoe Pleasence

Professor of Empirical Legal Studies

Faculty of Laws


Joined UCL
1st Dec 2005

Research summary

Pascoe Pleasence is a leading international expert in social science research methods, access to justice and legal capability.

His research is primarily focused on issues of access to justice; also extending to the methods used in this field. Following his successful stewardship of the English and Welsh Civil and Social Justice Survey, much of his recent work has continued to concern the design, development and analysis of data from 'legal needs' surveys (surveys of citizen and business experience of legal problems). He was lead author of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and Open Society Justice Initiative’s (OSJI) 2019 global guidance Legal Needs Surveys and Access to Justice, and the access to justice chapter of the United Nations Praia City Group’s 2020 Handbook on Governance Statistics. These two publications were instrumental in the United Nation’s 2020 adoption of a first global Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) concerning access to civil justice (Target 16.3.3).

Building on his 2014 Law and Justice Foundation of New South Wales report, Reshaping Legal Assistance Services: Building on the Evidence Base, which frames future research needs, his current research has a focus on the better theorising and means of measuring 'legal capability'. This has led to the recent development of a set of standardised legal capability measures - using modern psychometric methods – as well as the creation of a comprehensive taxonomy of legal capability (in the Victoria Law Foundation’s 2020 Law … What is it Good For?).

Professor Pleasence's past research has also involved a number of projects exploring the work and profitability of law firms, the impact on Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) interventions on solicitors' clients, the prevalence and patterns of use of solicitor advice by police station detainees, the impact of formal advice. These projects include a government funded study of the impact of early-stage telephone debt advice, which pioneered the use of randomised control trials in a legal advice setting in the UK.

Away from the law, Professor Pleasence has also seen the publication of a joint analysis of Olympic performance data, aimed at separating the impact of technological and technical revolution from general improvements in performance.

Teaching summary

Professor Pleasence is convenor of the 'Law and Social Inquiry' (final-year) LLB module and the 'Legal Needs and Legal Assistance' LLM module.

He also participates in UCL's PhD training programme, as well as supervising research students. Past PhD students have investigated subjects including the theory and practice of integrated legal service delivery, and young people, civil justice and the Internet.


The City Law School
Other qualifications at first-degree level (including professional), Bar Vocational Qualification | 1991
City, University of London
Other Postgraduate qualification (including professional), Diploma of Law | 1990
University of Cambridge
Other higher degree, Master of Philosophy | 1989
University College London
First Degree, Bachelor of Arts (Honours) | 1987


Pascoe Pleasence is Professor of Empirical Legal Studies and co-director of the Centre for Empirical Legal Studies in the UCL Faculty of Laws. He is a leading international expert in social science research methods, with special interest in access to justice, legal capability (of the public), and the structure of the legal profession and legal services market. He has authored more than 100 books, reports and academic papers, and his work has been cited by the House of Lords (now Supreme Court). Reflecting the breadth of his work, his publications have traversed a wide range of academic fields; including geography, information science, psychology, social epidemiology, disability, public health, public policy, the sociology of race and ethnicity, as well as various fields of law.

He has extensive policy-research experience, as Head of the Legal Services Research Centre (1996-2009) (where he led the development of the English and Welsh Civil and Social Justice Survey) and then Academic and Scientific Adviser to the Legal Services Commission of England and Wales (2009-2011). He has advised and been involved in the development of access to justice related research across an extensive range of jurisdictions, including Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Macedonia, Moldova, Mongolia, Nepal, New Zealand, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Taiwan, Ukraine and the United States; as well as helping to develop the access to justice module of the World Justice Project's influential General Population Poll.

His work with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and Open Society Justice Initiative (OSJI) made possible the United Nation’s adoption of a first access to civil justice related Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) (Target 16.3.3) in 2020.

He is a fellow of the Royal Statistical Society, a member of the International Group of Experts on the Measurement of Access to Justice, the International Legal Aid Group and International Working Group on Civil Justice and Dispute Resolution.

Away from the law, he is a keen musician, swimmer and surfer. For a time he was also a Surf Life Saver on Queenscliff Beach, Sydney.