UCL Faculty of Laws


Access to Justice: Theory and Practice (LAWS0321)

This module explores contemporary issues concerning access to legal advice, representation and ‘justice’ within the legal system.

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The LLM Access to Justice module explores contemporary issues concerning public access to legal advice, representation and ‘justice’ within the legal system and the role of access to justice in mitigating inequalities and promoting social justice. We will explore the principle of access to justice as central to the rule of law, and how unmet legal needs can exacerbate social and economic inequalities and impact health and wellbeing. 

Students will engage with research on the challenges faced by underserved, disadvantaged and vulnerable groups in accessing and benefiting from legal services resulting from of lack of knowledge about rights and entitlements, inability to pay for legal services, and the decreasing supply of free sources of advice and representation. We will consider the issue of funding of legal advice and representation and reflect on moves towards improving access to justice, including health justice partnerships and the increased use of digital justice.  

Focusing on ‘law in action’ rather than ‘law in the books’, the course adopts an interdisciplinary approach drawing on the faculty’s world-leading research and the work of its award-winning Centre for Access to Justice. The module is taught by a range of tutors to expose students to different disciplinary perspectives. Drawing from a range of disciplines means that students can explore the connections between legal, social and health problems, the obstacles involved in obtaining legal advice and the use of law for both individual rights and collective challenge, in exploring what is needed to ensure effective access to justice in today’s challenging socio-economic contexts.  

Students will engage with leading empirical research in the field as well as practical examples of social, economic and policy impacts and other key legal challenges. While the course will have a strong focus on England and Wales, we will touch on some comparative components with other jurisdictions and international sources such as the OECD and the United National Sustainable Development Goal 16.  

Module syllabus 

The module syllabus is subject to change. Indicative module topics include: 

  • Access to Justice in a Critical Context 

  • Empirical approaches to Access to Justice 

  • Public funding and Access to Justice 

  • Pro bono and Litigants in Person 

  • Relationships between Health and Law 

  • Health Justice Partnerships in Practice 

  • Vulnerability and Access to Justice 

  • Access to Justice for Children 

  • The role of technology in Access to Justice 

  • Access to Justice and the Post Office Scandal 

Recommended materials 

Module reading lists and other module materials will be provided via online module pages, once students have made their module selections upon enrolment. 

Preliminary reading 

Pleasence P and Balmer N. (2014). How People Resolve ‘Legal’ Problems, A Report to the Legal Services Board, (2014), online: https://bit.ly/3olwTa5  

OECD (2019). Equal Access to Justice for Inclusive Growth: Putting People at the Centre, OECD Publishing, Paris online: https://bit.ly/3C3GwUj  

Denvir C & others (2022). We are Legal Aid, Findings from the 2021 Legal Aid Census, LAPG online: https://bit.ly/3RjfxZw  

Genn H, Beardon S. (2021). Law for health: Using free legal services to tackle the social determinants of health. University College London, online: https://bit.ly/40OaCFE 

Legal Services Board (2022)., Vulnerabilities consumers face when using legal services, online: https://bit.ly/3JYuyzP 

Moorhead, R., Nokes, K., & Helm, R. (2021). Working Paper 3: The Conduct of Horizon Prosecutions and Appeals. Available here 

Mulcahy L and Tsalapatanis, A (2022). Exclusion in the interests of inclusion: who should stay offline in the emerging world of online justice? Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law, online: https://bit.ly/3WRPPiF  

Key information

Module details
Credit value:22.5 credits (225 learning hours)
Convenor:Karen Nokes
Other Teachers:Dame Hazel Genn, Pascoe Pleasence, Sonia Kalsi, Rachel Knowles, Sarah Beardon 
Teaching Delivery:10 x 2 Hour weekly seminars, Term One
Who may enrol:LLM Students Only
Must not be taken with:None
Qualifying module for:LLM in Law and Social Justice;
LLM in Human Rights Law;
LLM in Public Law
Practice Assessment:Opportunity for feedback on practice essay 
Final Assessment:Exam (100%)