The Oxford Centre for Socio-Legal Studies is pleased to announce that Dr Marie Burton has now taken up the post of Postdoctoral Researcher on ‘Enhancing Democratic Habits: an oral history of the Law Centres movement’.  This is a four-year AHRC-funded project in collaboration with Queens University Belfast and the British Library.  The project aims to produce an in-depth account of activist lawyering in the UK and to consider the ways in which Law Centres – which work in and with disadvantaged communities – have been successful in encouraging active citizenship and democratic engagement among marginalised groups. 

Marie’s background as a social welfare lawyer and socio-legal researcher and academic means that she is uniquely placed to carry out the research in this project.  Marie is a former practising solicitor and senior policy analyst whose work has influenced the development of national policy on legal aid, financial exclusion, high cost credit and debt.  She has over 30 years' experience of working in and around the civil and criminal justice system. She practised mainly in the not-for-profit legal advice sector, including at North Kensington Law Centre and as part of the Shelter Legal Team.  

Marie was awarded her PhD by the London School of Economics in 2015/16. ‘Calling for Justice: Comparing Telephone and Face-to-face Advice in Social Welfare Legal Aid’ is a qualitative study of the advice and casework experience of clients, lawyers and advisers working mainly in the field of housing and homelessness law.  Her research findings have been taken up by those investigating the impact of the Legal Aid, Punishment and Sentencing of Offenders Act 2012. 

‘Enhancing Democratic Habits’ will use life story interviews and an archive of Law Centre annual reports to capture the voices and experiences of the diverse protagonists of the Law Centres movement ­– an often overlooked and undervalued area of legal practice.  It will also help us frame our response to the current crisis and the ongoing fallout from Covid-19, by providing insights into how to ensure that the claims of marginalised groups are heard.