Law and Society

UCI Law School offers a host of opportunities for students interested in exploring relationships and interactions between law, social structure and cultural practices. This field, sometimes called law and society, or socio-legal studies, encompasses a broad range of topics, including legal decision-making by individuals and groups, dispute processing, legal systems, the functioning of juries, judicial behavior, legal compliance, the impact of specific reforms, the globalization of law, and the roles of lawyers. Some socio-legal scholars explore the relationship between law, ideology, culture, identity, and social life. Many of the law school faculty, affiliated faculty, and professors in other graduate schools and departments at UC Irvine teach and write about those relationships, interactions, and processes, using a variety of research methods and modes of analysis.


Socio-legal research plays a prominent part in the UCI Law curriculum. The required first-year Legal Profession course, for example, draws heavily on socio-legal research on American lawyers, their institutions and norms. Upper-level courses and seminars on topics such as immigration, consumer protection, insurance, and criminal justice also incorporate law and society perspectives.  The Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Law course focuses entirely on socio-legal research. Law students also may take courses in other departments, including Criminology, Law & Society, which boasts an extraordinary number of renowned socio-legal scholars (see below).

Additional Opportunities

Students interested in socio-legal studies will find a variety of opportunities to explore these topics at UCI Law and in the broader university campus community.

UCI Law hosts a regular interdisciplinary Socio-Legal Studies Workshop, in which UCI scholars present in-progress papers on socio-legal topics. The workshop series is open to faculty, law students, and other graduate students.

The law school has held symposia on topics such as immigration, the criminalization of homelessness, and theory and method in legal history. It also has hosted lectures by leading socio-legal scholars on topics such as the future of large law firms, global competition in the commercial law sector, access to legal services, and lawyer misconduct and discipline.

Highly qualified students interested in combining the study of law with graduate research in other disciplines are invited to undertake concurrent degree study under the auspices of UC Irvine’s Program in Law and Graduate Studies. The objective of the program is to promote interdisciplinary study of law while also enabling students to obtain both a J.D. and a graduate degree in less time than would be required to acquire both degrees separately.  The program is well suited to students interested in professional or academic careers focused on the interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary study of law and legal institutions, policy analysis, and/or applied research in law-related fields (for example, criminal justice and criminology, urban planning and environmental issues, discrimination, human rights, urban planning, environmental protection, and intellectual property).

UCI’s interdisciplinary Department of Criminology, Law and Society integrates two complementary areas of scholarship — criminology and law and society. It is the only criminology department and one of only two law and society units in the University of California system. Among its distinguished faculty are the President of the Law & Society Association, three former presidents of the American Society of Criminology; former presidents of the Society for the Study of Social Problems, and the American Psychology-Law Society; and two Fellows of the American Academy of Political and Social Science. The department consistently ranks highly in the nation among doctoral degree-granting programs in criminology and criminal justice.

The Center in Law, Society and Culture (CLSC) brings together UC Irvine faculty and graduate students who share interests in law, society, and culture, broadly defined. Issues of interest to center affiliates include race, law and justice; law and literature; critical legal theory; legal consciousness; law and space; legal philosophy, culture and policing; the interaction of local and international legal cultures; globalization; migration; knowledge production; law, science, and society; and law and history. CLSC sponsors and funds a variety of campus activities, including colloquia, workshops, conferences, events, and graduate student reading groups. All CLSC symposia and colloquia are free and open to the campus community and the public.

The Center for Organizational Research (COR) facilitates research on new organizational forms and processes now taking shape in a variety of contexts: global teams, web-based collaboration, network structures, collective threats to security and privacy, micro enterprises, international non-governmental organizations, and alliances across private, public, and non-profit fields. These developments raise opportunities for alternative modes of decision-making, just as they present challenges for accountability and efficacy. They also raise questions about how existing distributions of power both constrain and enable organizational experimentation. COR contributes to the development of organization theory by connecting scholars from many disciplines who bring their knowledge and methods to a common understanding of these issues.

UCI Law students may take courses in other schools and departments at UCI and receive academic credit toward the J.D. degree.  A wide array of courses across the campus may be professionally useful to the aspiring employment and labor lawyer, including, for example, Strategic Human Resources Management in the Merage School of Business, or graduate level courses in the School of Social Sciences, or the School of Social Ecology.