‘Changing law, Changing lawyers’: public launch of the Legal Professions Research Group 

The Legal Professions Research Group (LPRG) at the School of Leeds invite you to attend ‘Changing Law, Changing Lawyers’, the inaugural workshop and public launch of the LPRG on 11 December 2023.

The LPRG workshop, generously supported by the Centre for Innovation and Research in Legal Education and the Centre for Business law and Practice, will facilitate a discussion on some of the contemporary challenges facing the legal profession, in particular those relating to professionalism and legal ethics, and the erosion of lawyers’ moral authority and standing within society. This will be a hybrid event, based physically in Leeds as well as online, and will comprise three panels and a concluding session, as per the details below. The event will be streamed live and recorded as a resource on the School’s website, and all attendees are invited to the drinks receptions at the conclusion of the workshop.   


The last 40 years of dramatic socio-economic and political changes, in particular globalisation and the crisis of liberalism, and consequent transformations in law and the profession experienced across the world, were documented and analysed in the two-volume Lawyers in 21st Century Societies (Abel et al 2020; Abel et al. 2022), co-edited by the LPRG’s co-founder, Professor Hilary Sommerlad. These volumes identified global trends such as the fragmentation of the profession and the erosion of its boundaries which have weakened the profession’s capacity to act as a building block of liberal democracy (Halliday & Karpik 1998) by holding power to account. They also explored the compromises wrought in law’s social justice face – for instance, the incremental erosion of procedural safeguards resulting from (inter alia) the emphasis on ‘value for money’ for the taxpayer in the UK and managerialist discourses. The pandemic and political turbulence of the last three years have accelerated and intensified these trends.   

Scope and focus of the workshop 

The workshop will bring together established and emerging scholars to discuss three particularly pressing dimensions of current transformations: digitalization, the impact of austerity and the production and regulation of lawyers. Participants will be encouraged to consider the following questions that underpin all three dimensions: 

  1. What are the principal contemporary challenges to the legal profession? 
  2. How do these challenges impact professionalism and legal ethics more specifically? 
  3. What is the extent and impact of the loss of lawyers’ moral authority and standing within society?  
  4. How could – or should – legal professionals and regulators meet these challenges? 

Costs and joining instructions

This workshop is free to attend, whether in person or online via Zoom, though registration is required using this Microsoft Form. Lunch and refreshments will be provided to all in-person attendees, and there will be a drinks and canapés reception from 16:45–17:45. 

Workshop schedule 

09:00–09:20            Registration and coffee

09:20–09:30            Welcome and Introduction by LPRG Coordinators 

09:30–11:00            Panel 1: Digital Law, Digital Lawyers? 

Speakers: Julian Webb (University of Melbourne); James Faulconbridge (University of Lancaster); Sundeep Aulakh (Leeds Business School)  

Discussant: Lisa Webley (University of Birmingham)  

11:00–11:30            Tea / Coffee 

11:30–13:00            Panel 2: Austerity and the crisis in the justice system 

Speakers: Jo Wilding (University of Sussex); Jaqueline Hodgson (Warwick); Natalie Byrom (Legal Education Foundation)  

Discussant: Alex Batesmith (LPRG) 

13:00–14:00            Lunch 

14:00–15:30            Panel 3: Making and regulating lawyers 

Speakers: Richard Moorhead (Exeter); Luke Mason (Westminster); Stephen Mayson (UCL) 

Discussant: Joan Loughrey (QUB)  

15:30–16:30            Concluding Session – Round Table 

Panel Chair: Hilary Sommerlad (LPRG)  

Participants: LPRG members plus Lisa Webley; Joan Loughrey; Stefanie Lemke; Andrew Francis  

This session will draw together the workshop’s key themes by summarising how the challenges currently faced by the profession were reflected in the respective panel discussions, and considering their consequences for the rule of law. The discussion will then be opened up to the audience.  

16:30–16:45            Closing Remarks – LPRG members 

16:45–17:45            Drinks Reception at the School of Law