Law in Society
We are interested in how law functions in society, and in law as a social institution. We fund research that is likely to shed light on policy or practice; and we fund practical innovation for evaluation and experiment.
We focus on three types of work:
- Critical reviews to summarise what is known about how law functions in a particular area. These reviews are not solely doctrinal or conceptual, but evaluate empirical evidence, assessing findings and their robustness.
- Empirical research to establish descriptive information or look for evidence about causes.
- Evaluations of programmes or experiments. These may be formative evaluations or evaluations of outcomes, in which case a comparison group or randomised-design is likely to be needed.
Our work falls within seven different themes:
1. Administrative justice
We do not focus on public administration per se but on how dispute resolution may be improved. This may require acquiring better descriptive information or studying reforms or making comparisons between different practices. For full details on the topics within this theme, visit the administrative justice page.
2. Mental health and mental capacity law
We are interested in empirical and evaluative work on mental health and mental capacity law. This could include the workings of mental health tribunals, the Court of Protection and so on.
3. Aspects of human rights law
We fund only a limited number of projects in human rights and are particularly interested in those which seek to investigate the structures for human rights adjudication in Europe and elsewhere or that address issues like the margin of appreciation.
4. Family law and family courts
We are interested in legal policy issues like co-habitation, divorce and separation and child contact; issues in family courts (such as expert witnesses and transparency); and the use of other mechanisms to promote outcomes appropriate to promote child welfare. See also our guidance under children and families.
5. Funding for civil justice
We are interested in the issue of how appropriate civil justice might be funded and believe the ultimate issue is what is best for citizens and society, rather than a particular profession. We would be particularly interested in work that includes expertise in behavioural economics in a multi-disciplinary approach and that might move the debate on and lead, for example to better allocation, appropriate triage, and consideration of proportionate costs.
6. Outcomes, enforcement and consequences
We are interested in outcomes across all these legal themes. What happens after adjudications or settlement? Are outcomes enforced? What do disappointed claimants do? Are family settlements adhered to? What other outcomes result? We would like to see more longitudinal work, both of a descriptive kind and that which is aimed at improving outcomes.
7. Cross national comparisons
In all our subject themes, we are interested in European comparisons, as well as those based on other common-law jurisdictions. How do other countries handle issues, compared to England and Wales, or Scotland, or Northern Ireland? What policy alternatives are revealed? We understand that findings from elsewhere are not necessarily applicable to the UK, but we are willing to fund comparative work that might shed light not only on the workings of law in the UK, but on underlying issues of commonality or difference.
We do NOT fund
- Delivery of core or normal or local legal services including law centres.
- Criminal law, unless it relates to our other interests such as children and young people and considered under our Open Door programme.
- Projects on penal policy, drugs, policing, crime prevention, or environmental law.
- Doctrinal or jurisprudential analysis.
We do not make grants for the running costs of voluntary bodies but will consider making a contribution to voluntary sector overheads on funded projects.
Interested in applying?
For information about submitting an application see our how to apply page.