We see research and theory as two of the essentials of better public legal education. Only by improving research, both theoretical and empirical, and growing the body of researchers interested in the subject, will PLE develop as a unique discipline.

We aim to encourage inter-disciplinary learning and relationships, and encourage researchers and scholars to contribute to the public legal education movement. Our approaches are multidisciplinary and reflect the diversity of theoretical underpinnings.

Here you can find a selection of our own commissioned research, research completed by Law for Life's forerunner (the Public Legal Education Network), and studies by colleagues in public legal education (PLE) and associated fields. If you have some research you would like to share here, please contact us.

Why research into public legal education (PLE) is needed?

The law is changing rapidly and there is increasingly accelerated legislative activity and complex inter-relating regulations across local, national and transnational jurisdictions. This affects people’s ability to make sense of the law, and how it affects them at different times in their lives. Legal knowledge has traditionally been seen as belonging to the realms of the legal academy and profession. Changes in legal service markets, the ways in which legal aid is provided and who to, have major implications for individuals’ ability to access services and gain redress when things go wrong.

Research in the field of public legal education and legal empowerment is patchy, and in some instances knowledge is altogether missing. For example, we need to understand how people acquire and adapt knowledge about the law in their everyday lives, how attitudes and skills interact with knowledge to help people adapt to changing environments and the kinds of educational interventions that are both effective and scalable.  To get strong evidence to answer these questions, and to test how well education programmes work, we need to do research at local, regional and national levels.    

Our research strategy

Our research strategy over the next five years will:

  • Strike a balance between creating new knowledge and getting knowledge and technology – both new and existing – into use;
  • Maintain a commitment to interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary approaches that incorporate both theoretical and empirical perspectives.
  • Maintain a commitment to sharing our research through open access technologies; disseminate our research in a variety of ways to ensure that it is accessible to different audiences with regard to language, content and style.
  • Use different methods of funding to join up national, regional and international research efforts, to achieve a bigger impact and ensure that both small and large organisations benefit from our research efforts
  • Redouble our effort to strengthen our partners and members’ ability to do and use research and evaluation; and
  • Make the most of our ability to influence policy to make sure research makes an impact;