UCL Faculty of Laws


Legal Needs and Legal Assistance (LAWS0323)

Legal Needs and Legal Assistance explores the public understanding and experience of law, the impact of legal problem experience, the need for and use of legal assistance services, the availability and obstacles to legal assistance, the relationship between clients and lawyers/advisors, the nature and structure of public legal assistance services, and the potential for remodelling public legal assistance services to best match the needs of the public. The course therefore takes a ‘bottom up’, rather than ‘top down’, approach to the justice system; making it particularly relevant to those with an interest in access to justice, broader social justice, and the nature and development of public legal assistance, including legal aid.

Module Syllabus

  • Legal problems and real lives
  • Public legal assistance services: a demography
  • Public understanding of law and legal services
  • How the public resolve legal problems
  • ‘One shotters’ and ‘repeat players’
  • Lawyer and client: roles and expectations
  • Legal needs in the police station
  • The impact of advice and legal representation
  • Meeting legal needs: regulatory, legal aid reform and UN SDG16.3.
  • Mirroring legal needs: the challenge of matching legal assistance to legal needs

Recommended Materials

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

Preliminary Reading

  • Galanter, M. (1974) “Why the ‘Haves’ Come Out Ahead: Speculations on the Limits of Legal Change,” in 9(1) Law and Society Review, pp. 95-160
  • Heinz, J.P., Nelson, R.L., Sandefur, R.L., Laumann, E.O. (2005), Urban Lawyers: The New Social Structure of the Bar, Chicago: University of Chicago Press
  • Pleasence, P. (2006) Causes of Action: Civil Law and Social Justice, Norwich: TSO
  • Pleasence, P., Kemp, V. and Balmer, N.J. (2011) The “The Justice Lottery: Police Station Advice 25 Years on from PACE” in Criminal Law Review, January 2011
  • Pleasence, P., Coumarelos, C., Forell, S. and McDonald, H. (2014), Reshaping Legal Assistance Services: Building on the Evidence Base. Sydney: Law and Justice Foundation of New South Wales.
  • Pleasence, P. et al. (2019) Legal Needs Surveys and Access to Justice, Paris: OECD/Open Society Foundations, available at https://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/governance/legal-needs-surveys-and-access-to-justice_g2g9a36c-en
  • Seron, C., Van Ryzin, G., Frankel, M. and Kovath, J. (2001), “The Impact of Legal Counsel on Outcomes for Poor Tenants in New York City’s Housing Court: Results of a Randomized Experiment,” 35(2) Law and Society Review, pp. 419-434

Key information

Module details
Credit value:22.5 Credits (225 learning hours)
Convenor:Pascoe Pleasence
Other Teachers:None
Teaching Delivery:Face to Face Seminar
Who may enrol:LLM Students Only


Must not be taken with:None
Qualifying module for:LLM in Criminal Justice, Family, and Social Welfare;
LLM in Human Rights Law;
LLM in Public Law
Practice Assessment:TBD
Final Assessment:3,000 Word Essay (100%)