Using themes to explore different perspectives
As we said in our introduction, after the first year of running the Socio-Legal Studies module we decided to restrict entry for law students to third-years only. This was considered necessary because we felt that, without having studied Jurisprudence (compulsory in the second year), the theoretical perspectives of socio-legal studies would be too advanced for some students (and, in any case, having studied jurisprudence, students would be in a better position to make a judgment as to whether they enjoyed the more theoretical approach). It also had the advantage that students would have studied the (compulsory second-year) Crime, Justice and Society unit, which exposed them to an approach similar to that of socio-legal studies. That unit requires students to embrace empirical research in the field and think critically about the role and value of law. The unit emphasizes the notion of criminalization, both through looking critically at the process by which certain types of behaviour become defined as criminal, and through looking at the discretionary processes through which the law so-defined is (or is not) enforced in practice. Key concerns throughout are the extent to which such criminalization can be considered just, and the way in which societal attitudes and social divisions affect, and are affected by, criminalization.
So, whilst the themes we have chosen to cover in the Socio-Legal Studies module are to a certain extent determined by the research interests of those available for teaching in any one year, we have also tried to cover issues that may have some connection with areas that law students will already have encountered in their studies. For example, Marxist and feminist perspectives are familiar from Jurisprudence; regulatory agencies have been discussed a little in Public Law; and police in Crime, Justice and Society.
Next we discuss the themes as they appeared in our 2010-2011 delivery of this module.