School of Law

CIRLE: Centre for Innovation and Research in Legal Education

Advancing Understandings of Education and the Professions in Criminal Justice and Law

In this Section:

Our vision

To establish the Law School as an international leader for innovation and research in legal education and criminal justice education. The Centre will seek to develop and disseminate evidence based teaching innovation and produce high quality and impactful research.


Through the Centre, the School of Law at the University of Leeds aims to establish a leading reputation for its commitment to excellence in student education, underpinned by world class scholarship and informed by field defining research produced by Centre members. Legal and Criminal Justice Education at Leeds comprises education at all stages in criminology, criminal justice and all aspects of law and socio-legal studies. Thus, the  Centre aims to deliver innovation and world class research and practice in legal and criminal justice education, which will have a transformative impact both within the School of Law at Leeds and internationally.

The Centre is the School’s ‘think tank’ – the driver and enabler of best practice and innovation. Through innovative evidence-based developments in pedagogic practice, we seek to transform our understanding of, and scholarship in, legal and criminal justice education, and the points of intersection between these disciplines. We identify and address key questions in university education in Law and Criminal Justice, and the wider legal services and criminal justice sectors through cutting edge research. We explore the role that educational innovation can play in supporting the development of confident, critical, creative thinkers with an acute understanding of their role and responsibilities within a global community.


Strategic themes

Through research and educational innovation, the Centre addresses the following key concerns:

  • What is the defining role and purpose of a University Law School education in the contemporary HE landscape, graduate marketplace and broader society?
  • What will be the core features of the globalized communities and professional sectors in which University graduates of Law and Criminology/Criminal Justice might live and work in the short, medium and longer-term
  • What will be the key features of the attributes, identities, professional and ethical values and knowledge base of those who will make a successful contribution in these fields?
  • What are the educational environments, processes and practices that support (and/or challenge) the development of these characteristics, and meet the objectives of a University Education?

Current project themes

A key dimension of all of these current project themes is the ability to engage across education, pedagogic research, co-curricular activities and other research projects and objectives:

  • Student Well-being: Confidence and Resilience (with particular reference to enhancing resilience through pedagogic method); Student Transitions (including student support), Employability and Research on Professional Identity Formation; the journey through the programmes from different educational routes.
  • Enhanced Learning: how can methods, such as lecture capture and other digital learning approaches, be utilised to produce more effective, inspirational learning environments; how do we enhance elements of skills delivery through programme content; enhancing academic scholarship at undergraduate level; understanding how international curriculum and experiences can enhance student learning and academic learning.
  • Professional identity and Student orientation towards the Legal Profession (including connections with Employability work, Links to Transitions etc); A series of research projects including work which explores the relationship between Higher Education  and the professions.
  • The Centre also leads on the enhancement and development aspects of the School’s programmes, for example working closely with Programme Directors in relation to external benchmarks. This includes work in relation to proposed changes to legal education and training through research, consultation responses and continued innovations in the development and delivery of the LLB, and close engagement with the Learning and Teaching Network of the British Society of Criminology.

Student experience and outreach activities

Pathways to Law

The School of Law at the University of Leeds has been awarded further funding to support the development and expansion of the Sutton Trust’s Pathways to Law programme.

Thousands of aspiring lawyers from non-privileged homes across the country will benefit from a £1m expansion of the Sutton Trust’s Pathways to Law programme, a pioneering initiative designed to widen access to the legal profession. For the first time, the programme, which is funded by the Legal Education Foundation, nine leading law firms and the partner universities, will provide support for GCSE students in years 10 and 11, as well as throughout sixth form.

Pathways to Law, targeted at academically able pupils from non-privileged homes, is delivered by 12 partner universities across the country, including the University of Leeds.

For further information, please contact the Programme Co-ordinator – Lucy Williams (email:, tel: 0113 343 9568)

Legal Advice Clinics

Students across the School can apply to be involved with a range of clinical legal education activities, all of which are designed to offer genuine assistance to the local community and to enhance the skills of our volunteers. The School currently supports the following Legal Advice Clinics:

  • Family, Housing and Employment clinics: students in any year can volunteer to work alongside solicitors and barristers in providing free legal advice to members of the public, all of whom are referred to the clinics via trusted local community organisations and charities. We currently work with a number of firms and chambers to provide advice in family, housing and employment law, and will soon be offering clinics focused upon consumer law and wills.

  • Welfare Rights Clinics: students in years two and above can volunteer to work with Leeds City Council in supporting Personal Independent Payment (PIP) applicants. Many applicants need assistance in understanding and completing PIP forms: students are trained to complete the forms on a one-to-one basis with clients, thereby ensuring clients can submit the best possible case for welfare support.

  • Personal Support Unit: students in years two and above are trained by the Personal Support Unit, a national charity, to provide support to litigants in person in the local courts. 

For more information about the clinics, including opportunities for current law students to volunteer at the Legal Advice clinics, please email

The impact that the School of Law’s Welfare Rights Project has had on the local community has been recognised through two exciting awards in April and May. In April, a judging panel of the national pro bono charity, LawWorks, named the project as the Best New Student Pro Bono Project, and in May the Project received the Leeds for Life Citizenship (Community) Award, which recognizes projects which have made a positive difference to a community locally, nationally or internationally. Following training by Leeds City Council’s Welfare Rights Unit, students saw their first Personal Independent Payment (PIP) clients in October 2016, and as of May 2017 it is projected they will have helped those clients to secure nearly £170,000 worth of benefits. For further information, please click here

The Centre draws on a broad engagement from colleagues across the School, with members across all Research Centres supporting the Centre’s activities, participating in projects and engaging in events.

Our research

The following is a list of some of the projects currently being undertaken by colleagues within the Centre:

  • Realising Resilience: An Evidence Based Approach to Embedding Resilience in the CurriculumLydia Bleasdale-Hill (2016-17) Funded by the Institute for Teaching Excellence & Innovation at the University of Leeds, this project is led by Lydia Bleasdale-Hill, who will hold a 0.8 FTE secondment and will be supported by Mrs Sarah Humphreys (Co-ordinator for the School of Law’s Legal Advice Clinics) who will hold a 0.2 FTE secondment to the Institute. The joint fellowship will research the different educational cultures of Schools and Faculties across campus and, using evidence drawn from staff and student interviews, suggest how resilience might be enhanced at curricular and co-curricular levels. This project develops an earlier project on Student Wellbeing supported by Lydia’s 2015 award of a University Student Education Fellowship (£15k)
  • Digital Learning – Resistance and Creativity…: how can methods, such as lecture capture and other digital learning approaches, be utilised to produce more effective, inspirational learning environments; Working closely with the University Centre for Digital Learning, the project team (Nick Taylor, Emma Wincup) are analysing student experiences of utilising lecture capture technologies across Criminology and Law programmes within the School
  • Transition, Progression and Attainment from non-traditional educational pathways: This project (led by Richard Peake) is exploring the processes of transition, progression and attainment of students undertaking BA Criminal Justice & Criminology programmes who have joined the programme from a range of non A-level backgrounds. In developing an evidenced-based understanding of the skills and attributes with which students are equipped from different educational routes, through quantitative and qualitative methods, the project will, in the first instance, enhance student support and curriculum delivery on the Criminology & Criminal Justice programmes. The project also connects with the Outreach and Widening Participation work co-ordinated by the Centre, included the successful Pathways to Law programme, organised by Herabans Kaur.
  • Internationalising the Curriculum and Student Experiences (Chloe Wallace). The project will investigate how students (and staff) experience the education, and particularly assessment methods, across partner universities. It will principally focus on the frameworks of signature pedagogies, but also at ‘hidden curriculum’ issues. The primary case-studies will be drawn from European systems.
  • Lawyers in Society – 30 Years on: In 1988, Rick Abel and Philip Lewis published the seminal three volume collection ‘Lawyers in Society’, which not only set a theoretical framework for the analysis of the legal professions, but provided detailed case-studies in separate volumes on the civil and common law world. Rick Abel, Hilary Sommerlad, Ole Hammerslev and Ulrike Schultz are editing a new three volume collection 30 years from the first publication to take account of the changes in the world’s legal professions in the intervening years. Professors Francis, Loughrey and Sommerlad (with Steven Vaughan of the University of Birmingham) are co-authoring the Country Report for England and Wales which attempts to take account of the legal profession’s response to market change and state intervention and map the principal theoretical implications of these changes and will be presenting a developing draft of the piece at a series of international conferences and network meeting, as part of the wider project, in the next two years. 


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