Established as an independent body in 1965, the Law Commission’s mandate is to reform the law in the pursuit of a cost effective, modern and accessible legal framework. The Law Commission is one of the most prestigious bodies in the field, at the cutting edge of legal thought.
Working life at the Law Commission
Approximately 60 people work in the Commission, which is located on Tothill Street, just off Parliament Square. The Law Commission is a Non Departmental Public Body which gives it a degree of autonomy, though with professional links into the Ministry of Justice analysts. It is led by a Chairman, who must be a High Court Judge or Court of Appeal Judge. He is ably assisted by a Chief Executive and four Commissioners, who are highly regarded as experts in the main areas of law which the Commission represents: criminal, public, commercial and common and property, family and trust law. A legal team of about four lawyers and five legal research assistants is assigned to each Commissioner. In addition to the legal staff there are three economists; one Economic Advisor and two Economic Assistants. The economists work with all the teams on the various projects that they undertake.
The Law Commission is currently working on its 10th programme of law reform, which will run until March 2011. Each programme follows a three-year cycle. Ongoing projects include:
- The insanity defence, which is reviewing how the current law on the fitness to plead in trials is based upon outdated science and psychiatry which makes it difficult for the courts to administer consistent justice.
- Intestate succession and inheritance, which is examining the law on how a person’s estate is divided upon their death if they die without a will. This project seeks to update the law to ensure that it accounts for modern family structures and preferences.
- The private rights of redress under unfair commercial practices directive, which is examining how consumers may be able to bring claims for damages for unfair commercial practices.
Other projects include – insurance contract law, adult social care, illegal transactions and marital property agreements. These all test the economist’s skill set in many different ways.
The economist’s role at the Law Commission
The economist’s work at the Law Commission includes the following tasks:
- Assisting in the drafting of impact assessments. Impact assessments evaluate the costs, benefits and risks of proposed law reform. The economist’s job is a collaborative one, working with the legal team to identify and assess all the options and where possible to quantify and value the potential outcomes.
- Offering advice on whether proposed recommendations are likely to be cost effective, and to identify whether new laws and regulations are likely to have unintended consequences that may discriminate against particular groups.
- Assisting in economic research arising out of the day to day work of the legal teams. This can be anything from a question on the price of housing to a more detailed analysis into the economics of valuing a life.
The Law Commission offers unique opportunities in the field of economics
- A job as an economist at the Law Commission will be challenging in a number of ways. It provides an opportunity to test the validity of the subject of economics as a whole. For example why, according to economics, must a price be placed on justice? Why can seemingly unrealistic assumptions help with modelling the reality of law? What is fairness? These are questions that have to be contended with, and debated amongst some of the best lawyers in the country.
- Working on so many different projects, and different dimensions of the projects, gives opportunities to use many aspects of economics. A wide range of applications from the economist’s toolkit is needed, including those topics to which it would not normally apply. Moral hazard is often applied to the insurance market, but what if it was applied to the timings of the barriers at level crossings? Alpha and beta errors are mostly seen in statistics, but can also be seen in wrongful convictions by the courts. Revealed preference may show the amenity value of a playground, but can it be used to show people’s taste for justice?
- You are given the freedom of taking projects in new directions Adding new ideas to the projects is not only welcomed, but encouraged.
Why work at the Law Commission?
- The opportunity to learn outside of your subject. The vast majority of work is in some way linked to law. This means you learn a great deal about the field, such as its aims, methods, focus and values.
- The Law Commission has only recently employed economists, allowing opportunities for you to shape the relatively new role. The concept of in-house impact assessment is also new, requiring economists to have particularly good communication skills and also powers of persuasion, in order to convey the value of the exercise.
- It presents a rare opportunity to experience how non-economists view the discipline of economics. There are a number of fundamental differences in the methodology and approach between economics and law. This means having to actually get to the heart of economics and learn its philosophy as opposed to just its tool kit.
- There is much day to day variety in the job as the Law Commission is working on around 15 projects at any one time. The economists’ skills are highly transferable across projects and the incumbent enjoys much variety in the demands of the job.
- Starting salary of £27,825 for a Band C economist, with a bonus for a relevant MSc
- Access to Ministry of Justice facilities including subsidised gym, canteen and sports and social club
- Leave of 25.5 days for new recruits, rising to 27.5 after 1 year
- Flexible working hours
- Civil service pension scheme
- Opportunities to partake in various training days and seminars
For more information about the Law Commission please see our web-site at:
For further details about working as an economist at the Law Commission, please contact Vindelyn Smith-Hillman on 020 3334 0247 or by e-mail to email@example.com