The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 has almost entirely eliminated funded representation for family law. Eligibility for legal aid is restricted to the ‘most vulnerable’ in society, which is deficiently defined and was significantly under-researched prior to the reform.
My research utilises a Bourdieusian framework to examine the effectuality of vulnerability as an indicator of need for legal representation, with a specific focus on the socio-economic and structural consequences for those litigants who are now left with little option but to self-advocate.
In my doctoral project, I will be undertaking empirical interviews with self-representing litigants in the family court, who would previously have been eligible under the legal aid scheme. In doing so, I intend to investigate the classed ways in which individuals are able to interact with the legal system without the assistance of a lawyer.
In drawing on Bourdieu’s theoretical conceptions of space and legitimacy, this will allow me to gain a more structural understanding of what it means to be vulnerable in a post-LASPO family law context, and thereby begin to suggest ways in which the legal system may be able to respond to the varying needs of a emerging class of newly ineligible family law litigants.
I have a role as Teaching Assistant on the Land Law second year core module, and am a member of the School's centre for Law and Social Justice, as well as the national Postgraduate and Early Career Academics Network of Scholars (PECANS).
I also actively tweet about my work from @JLMant1.