UCL Faculty of Laws


Principles of Civil Justice (LAWS0141)

This module provides a detailed study of the fundamental principles that underpin the structure and operation of the civil justice system

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An effective civil justice system is the means by which substantive legal rights are elaborated, vindicated and enforced. Over the last twenty years such systems have been subject to significant reform across the world; reform that has attempted to ensure that they are more effective and efficient.

Module content

This module provides a detailed study of the fundamental principles that underpin the structure and operation of those systems. As such it critically examines principles of due process, for instance, the right to be heard, to equality of arms, to open justice common, common to all civil justice systems and contemporary challenges to them.

It provides an in-depth analysis of overarching theories of procedural justice and recent reforms that have seen the introduction, in differing forms, of a new theory of procedural justice based on proportionality across common law jurisdictions.

It then focuses on the procedural principles and contemporary discussions concerning specific procedural processes, and challenges for and developments in civil justice.

The module approaches the subject primarily through an examination of the English and Welsh civil justice system, and the manner in which principle has shaped it and been the subject of reform.

It does so however through a consideration of comparative study, particularly taking account of the ALIUNIDROIT Principles, common law jurisprudence from, for instance, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States of America. Each year a special lecture is given by a leading member of the judiciary.


The module is divided into five substantive parts. The first part provides students with an in-depth analysis of general, theoretical principles of procedural justice.

Having done so, three differing conceptions of the civil justice system’s aim are considered: first, the commitment to securing justice on the merits, which has, historically, been the predominant organising principle of civil justice; secondly, Bentham’s theory of judicial procedure, which understands the search for justice on the merits as subordinate to wider policy considerations; and, finally, the turn towards proportionality as a fundamental procedural principle, and its different meanings across different jurisdictions.

The second part of the module examines the role and underpinnings of discrete aspects of the civil justice process and the way in which they have been shaped by and are being revised by the fundamental conceptions discussed in part one of the module. The convergence in approaches across common law and civilian justice systems is considered.

Part three focuses on the role and impact of litigation costs both in terms of the operation of the civil justice system and procedural reform. It also examines recent reforms in litigation funding: the development of contingency and third party funding and the role it plays as a replacement for state-funded legal aid.

The fourth part of the module examines the future of civil justice. It looks at responses to the growth of litigants-in-person and the way in which, and how, that is reshaping the adversarial process through the introduction of a more investigative and online approach to the delivery of civil justice by common law courts.

The final part of the module provides an opportunity to revise important elements of the module and exam guidance.

Module syllabus

This module is subject to change.

General Principles of Civil Justice

1. Introduction
2. Due Process – I
3. Due Process – II
4. Justice on the merits
5. Bentham’s theory of justice
6. 21st Century Proportionate Justice

Principles of Civil Dispute Resolution

7. Court control of litigation
8. Interim Relief
9. Expert Evidence
10. Evidence – Disclosure
11. Privilege from Disclosure – I
12. Privilege from Disclosure – II
13. Mass Litigation
14. Appeals

Costs and Funding

15. Litigation Costs
16. Litigation Funding

The Future of Civil Justice

17. Guest lecture
18. Current Developments I
19. Current Developments II


20. Revision Session

Recommended materials

  • Adrian Zuckerman, Zuckerman on Civil Procedure: Principles of Practice (2013) (an excellent alternative, is Neil Andrews, Andrews on Civil Processes (2013))
  • John Sorabji, English Civil Justice after Woolf and Jackson (2014)
  • Neil Andrews, The Three Paths of Justice, (2012) (a good, short, introduction)

Module reading lists and other module materials will be provided via online module pages, available at the beginning of term once students have enrolled.

Key information

Module details
Credit value:30 credits (15 ECTS, 300 learning hours)
Convenor:John Sorabji
Other Teachers:None
Teaching Delivery:20 x 2-hour weekly seminars, 10 seminars per term, Term One and Two
Who may enrol:LLM students only
Must not be taken with:None
Qualifying module for:LLM in Litigation and Dispute Resolution;
LLM in Public Law
Practice Assessment:Opportunity for feedback on one optional practice essay per term (two in total)
Final Assessment:Exam (100%)