Professor Hilary Sommerlad


I joined the School of Law in January 2016 from the University of Birmingham where I was Research Director of the Centre for Professional Legal Education and Research. I graduated from New Hall, Cambridge with a degree in History, and went on to take a PhD in Political Science from York, and subsequently to qualify and practise as a solicitor I returned to academia to teach Law and develop research in socio-legal studies at Leeds Beckett, Leicester and Birmingham Universities.

I am a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences, and one of the founders and a member of the executive of the Judicial Diversity Initiative.

I am also a member of the following:

  • Society of Legal Scholars (and in 2008-11 was convenor of the Profession, Practice & Ethics stream)
  • Socio-Legal Studies Association
  • Research Committee for the Sociology of Law (RCSL) International Working Group for Comparative Studies of Legal Professions (and Chair of the sub-group: Legal Professional Values and Identities)
  • International Legal Aid Group

I have held visiting positions at universities and research institutes in the CIS, Canada, the United States and Australia, and in 2014 was Distinguished Visiting Mentor at the Law School, ANU, Canberra.

I am currently a member of the following editorial boards: 

  • Journal of Law and Society
  • International Journal of the Legal Profession
  • The British Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies
  • Laws (open access journal)
  • Legal Ethics (where I was Articles Editor 2008-18)


  • Co-Director, Legal Professions Research Group

Research interests

My written output includes five books and published reports, 25 (peer reviewed) articles and 26 book chapters, and more than 1000 citations. I regularly receive invitations to speak at national and international events concerning all aspects of legal professional culture, diversity and the profession and legal aid, and have given more than150 conference presentations. Recent keynotes include: Conferentie VSR Antwerpen: Rechtsociologie in Europa (January 2015);

My work has been translated into Russian, Spanish and Japanese.

I have been consulted by numerous external bodies including Cambridge Econometrics; the Gender Equality Working Group (GEWG) of South Australia; Canadian Bar Association; the Legal Services Board; Ministry of Justice; Low Commission on Legal Aid; Education Leeds;  the EHRC Equally Professional Network’.

Legal professional culture, including the impact of macro level change such as understandings of citizenship and the increasing diversity of people doing law work.

I have completed research projects for a range of external funders including the Law Society; Legal Ombudsman; the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission; MOJ; the Nuffield Foundation and the Ford Foundation, on topics including women lawyers; legal aid and diversity in the profession.

I edited, with Professors Rick Abel (UCLA), Ulrike Schultz (Hagen) and Ole Hammerslev (University of Southern Denmark), a major international study of Lawyers in Society (Hart 2020; 2022), which the US Law & Society Association has granted the status of an International Research Collaborative.  This gave rise to a two volume collection involving nearly 100 distinguished contributors from around the globe.

<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>

Student education

In recent years I have taught the following:

  • Criminal Law
  • Regulation of the Legal Profession (Module Leader)
  • Socio-Legal Theory (LLM)
  • Socio-Legal Research Methods (LLM)
  • Legal Pluralism

Research groups and institutes

  • Centre for Innovation and Research in Legal Education
  • Centre for Law and Social Justice