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Unit information: Socio-Legal Studies in 2015/16

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Unit name Socio-Legal Studies
Unit code LAWD30122
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 4 (weeks 1-24)
Unit director Dr. Sargoni
Open unit status Not open




School/department University of Bristol Law School
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law

Description including Unit Aims

Socio-legal studies has emerged as an important set of diverse approaches to the study of legal phenomena over the past thirty or forty years. The general concerns of socio-legal studies are about the practical operation of law in society and how society is reflected in law. From a diverse range of disciplinary perspectives, socio-legal approaches usually do one or more of the following (all of which go well beyond traditional doctrinal analysis): 1) they study 'law in action' as opposed to 'law in the books', often emphasising the gap between the two; 2) they investigate the place of law in relation to other social institutions: for example, what is the role of law in the workplace, or how does law shape family dynamics, or what effect does law have on local government?; 3) they consider law in the context of broader social theories, for example, those of Marx, Weber, Durkheim or Foucault.

Intended Learning Outcomes

By the end of this unit a successful student will be able to:

  • Recall, summarise, contrast and evaluate a range of different sociological approaches to law
  • Summarise, compare, contrast and evaluate theoretical tenets from a variety of theorists accurately
  • Assess theoretical and methodological approaches and select the most appropriate ones for their own research in sociology of law
  • Identify and differentiate current applications of socio-legal research to key areas of law
  • Apply core debates over research methods and research ethics to practical research questions.

Teaching Information

Ten one hour lectures plus ten 2 hour seminars.

Assessment Information

Two summative pieces of coursework of 2,000 words, each contributing 50% to the final mark.

Students will also be required to submit one formative essay.

The first coursework essay will test understanding of the conceptual dimensions of the theories they have learnt, while the second will support them in developing a research proposal that will apply selected theories and approaches to a particular legal area of interest. Together, the assessments will assess all of the intended learning outcomes for this unit.

Reading and References

  • R. Cotterell, The Sociology of Law: An Introduction, London: Butterworths, 1992
  • R. Cotterell, Law’s Community: Legal Theory in Sociological Perspective
  • R.Banakar & M. Travers, An Introduction to Law and Social Theory, Oxford: Hart