Crash, bang, wallop! What a website…

In light of the failures of the online Recorder application site, I am not alone in wondering about the proposed Online Courts(1)…

I mention such courts as they are one reason why PLE could become much more important, as noted in the Briggs report on restructuring the civil courts.

If people are to make use of such ‘lawyer light’ systems, they will need the knowledge of the law such a system requires. They will need to know what the Court is for, how it works, how to interpret the information…

Being a librarian I must also add that people will need the technical knowledge and access to IT which using such a Court requires.

This last point is an example of where the mere existence of a solution is not enoughLegal information is widely available, but this does not help if you cannot understand it- or even get hold of it in the first place.(2.)

As with legal information, a key element of PLE is not just the provision of the service, but the careful consideration of how people access and understand it.

(1) For example Francis Fitzgibbon QC as reported in The Times’ The Brief of 21/02/2017

(2) See the paper on open law I co-wrote with Sarah Glassmeyer for a wider discussion of access issues. 

Paths and trees and metaforests

This week has been all about the citation searching- forwards and backwards! This is something I’ve recommended to students in my research support librarian role. I’ve always felt it was better than going straight for keyword searching. You start with a small amount of literature, working out from that. You get a sense of what’s out there, what keywords might be useful later on, and build a set of reading fairly quickly

Of course you  end up with a looooong list of stuff to check out. Which on the one hand is great! It makes you feel that the project has some depth to it. On the other hand, it’s an early reminder of just how much reading you have to do…

Still, the reccurence of certain works is encouraging, suggesting the right path is there, somewhere. I’ll get to putting it all into  Refworks (other ref management software is available) later this week. After that the next big step is to get and read the stuff! All this to inform the 1000 word RF1 report.


What is it? A status update.

I’ve spent the past week reading up on legal research methods. Life is all weird turns, isn’t it.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking on the following…

Is this a law thesis? It’s in the Law and Criminology department, so in a simple sense, yes. And in a broad sense it will fit into the socio-legal camp. But it’s not ‘about’ a particular law or legal aspect of things. It’s about how the academy relates to the wider world, with law as a particularly interesting lens. So it’s in part an education thesis too.

Along the way it will consider ‘what is law as an academic discipline?’ Hence the jurisprudence reading – how the law is understood having an influence on how it is taught, and how the institutional / intellectual boundaries are set and policed.

Early thoughts- the doctrinal approach certainly seems to set a limit on the role of the law school. Law is autonomous, distinct, and about what lawyers d0. It’s about producing lawyers, and so any ‘outreach’ is limited to the… interesting relationship between the academy and the professions. This position is perhaps bolstered by a pragmatic and economic approach to higher education- the role is to produce workers, so law is all about law work.

I’m off work this week, so will try to get a bit more reading done. Next area do look at is social science method and theory.

I’m working towards the first assessment point, the RF1, aiming at submitting for the end of May. In this form I have to outline my method and key reading, so I need to cover several areas. These areas need not be considered in great depth, but I do need to show an awareness of them and have a plan for how I will develop that depth. As well as thre RF1 form involves the Vitae RDF and filling in relevant sections of the RDF planner. And an ethics application. The glamour of the doctorate, forms and forms and forms…

Past and present and plans

I’ve spent my weekend PhD time reading up on methods in law. It’s been genuinely interesting and informative. Of particular interest has been the discussion around the relationship between research methods and the nature of law as a discipline, as this will be one of the themes of the research.

The reading has also touched on the history  of law as a discipline, which will be a key element in my work, alongside a more general consideration of higher education history. This formed a part of my LLM Res,insofar as I looked at legal education reform through the lens of academic and legal professional views of the purpose of legal education.

The current project will move on from this to look more closely at the place of legal education within higher education, the role of higher education, the self-image of legal academics, and the dynamics between all this and the question – Birks’ question- what is a law school for?

Joining research methods in the ‘unexpected things to be doing’ file will be reading up on jurisprudence- models of what law is being important in considering  what study of the law should look like.

I’ve also got an outline plan for the next four months. Here at SHU the first milestone in a PhD is the RF1 Approval of Project form, so my plan is all about getting that form and associated work done on time.

I’ve put down a more general set of markers with a view to submitting in four years (!), but that of course can be modified… I have to do the next milestone- the RF2- within 2 years of starting, so January 219. After that it’s all down to how much I can get done and not burn out. The maximum I have takes me to 2024! I hope not to take more than five years though…

First supervision meeting

My official start date was February 1st, and it is from this date that all subsequent assessment deadlines are set. However, today feels more like the start of things, as I have just had my first meeting with the supervisory team.

It was a positive meeting. We’ve got a working title, the beginnings of a training plan, and some initial reading to do.

Working title- “What are the barriers to law school involvement in public legal education?”

Training- I’ll take some of the MRes modules in qualitative methods and philosophies of research, and begin reading up on interviews / document analysis / NVivo.

Initial reading- jurisprudence, research methods, history of higher education

The next meeting is schedule for May, where we’ll discuss my draft RF1- initial project proposal for approval- which I’ll then write up for submission at the end of May.

The next few posts will be reflections on the initial reading and some thoughts on methodology.

A return…

Hello! I’ll be using this blog to help me with researching and writing my PhD. I found blogging really helpful during my LLM Res, and expect it to be just as useful during this research.

I’m a doctoral researcher in the Department of Law and Criminology at Sheffield Hallam University. My research topic is the role of university law schools in public legal education.

Comments are welcome, once I have substantive posts up!