Deploying theory to seek to understand the 'social' is an integral element of the research interests of many of the socio-legal academics in the Law School at Bristol. We have sought to reflect this intermingling of the theoretical and the empirical in our socio-legal teaching at both undergraduate and postgraduate level. The aims of our undergraduate module reflect this approach and include:
• broadening the methods and approaches to which students are exposed in their first degree by looking at law 'from the outside' through a social science lens;
• fostering the sense that law can be a site for scholarly enquiry (and
• fostering enthusiasm for law-related work outside the profession, especially
in the policy world.
We have always hoped that the undergraduate module would provide some of our law students with an enthusiasm for taking a more empirical and social scientific approach, and so act as a feeder for our MSc in Socio-Legal Studies. In fact, in the six years of running the undergraduate module, we have only had one student progress from this module to the MSc; this was a student who was awarded one of our 1+3 Economic and Social Research Council studentships.
One of the strengths of this module is that the Law School has a significant number of academic staff actively engaged in socio-legal research who deploy a range of different theoretical and methodological perspectives to enquire into a wide variety of research areas. This unit enables academics to use their own research in the design and delivery of seminars, bringing the topics of study to life and enabling students to see at first hand how academics go about conducting social research in law and integrating social theory into their work (e.g. Cowan, 2004; McDermont et al., 2009). Over the life of the module, around ten academic staff have been involved in delivering elements of the teaching. As we shall see in the next section, it is the research interests and focus of staff that have shaped, and re-shaped, the programme year on year.