There are a wide choice of possibilities for your dissertation proposal. The key requirement is that your choice of topic must focus on knowledge and skills directly relevant to legal practice, procedure or skill. We are keen to encourage students to look at topics related to pupillage or pro bono work, but this is not essential.
It is very important that you draw up your own dissertation proposal and that it focuses on what you are most interested in as part of your developing career. Although, your supervisor will provide support and guidance the research, analysis and writing will be carried out by you. You therefore need to show that your ideas are sufficiently developed, that you have identified some issues to focus on, and that you have sufficient commitment to the work that will be required.
An idea for a dissertation proposal could arise from:
- A topic studied on the BPTC that you would be interested in covering in greater depth and/or from a particular angle.
- A current issue in legal professional practice raised, or issues in an area you would like to practice in
- Applying scholarship and concepts from another discipline, such as psychology to legal professional knowledge and/or skills
- A topic that arises in a mini pupillage or pro bono work
Topics arising from the BPTC might include:
- An in-depth examination of a particular area of evidence or procedure, such as funding litigation, or the use of technology to present evidence in court.
- A critical consideration of an aspect of practice, for example current practice in ADR, or the use of expert evidence
- Analysis of how a particular skill is developed and applied in legal practice, for example comparing witness preparation in the UK and other jurisdictions, or the drafting of settlements in personal injury cases
- A topic arising from professional conduct or ethics, such as an analysis of how key parts of the Code of Conduct work in practice
- A topic linked to work experience, for example pro bono work
LLM students in the past have chosen topics from a variety of areas. Topics past students have chosen and have had approved include:
- A critical appraisal of the use of structured settlements in practice
- Balancing probabilities - mathematical and statistical insights into principles for assessing damages
- Funding options for civil litigation in England and Wales - does money buy justice?
- The use of logic, rhetoric and persuasion in trial advocacy
- When is evidence of sexual orientation appropriately relevant?
- The compatibility of the rules for the admissibility of evidence in criminal cases and the right to a fair trial
- Are all people effectively served by the criminal justice system? The evolving roles of witnesses and victims
- What can psychological principles tell us about the effectiveness of juries?
- An analysis of the practical use of comparators in discrimination claims in Employment Tribunals
- Which areas of Sharia law might realistically be incorporated into English family law cases?
- Assessing the potential impact of the UK Bribery Act 2010.
- Contract Damages: Does the market price rule meet current market needs?
- How will the Agreement on the Unified Patent Court change the patent litigation landscape with regard to Non-Practicing Entities?
- Should there be a standard classification of the role of a McKenzie Friend?
- Evaluating experiences of domestic abuse - difficulties with victims reporting and the associated evidentiary challenges.
Developing a methodology
It is important to develop your methodology before starting your dissertation as, without a clear methodology, you can waste time following false trails and may have difficulties completing your dissertation.
When developing the methodology for your dissertation, you should consider:
- What sort of research will be required?
- What sort of literature search would be required? What sources are most relevant?
- What critical framework might be appropriate to analyse material you find?
- Might empirical research be relevant?
- How will the topic be approached?
You may wish to carry out some empirical research for your dissertation, for example using questionnaires for members of a set of chambers, or short interviews with pro bono clients. Your supervisor will support this, so long as your plans are properly structured and any ethical considerations have been satisfactorily addressed.
The course can be completed on either a full-time basis (submission within six months of registration) or part-time basis (submission within 12 months of registration).
You should consider how completing the dissertation will fit with other commitments and career plans. Apply when you are confident you will have time to complete your dissertation within the expected time frame.
If you are not reasonably sure you can complete your dissertation within the time frame, consider waiting until the next application round. Part time BPTC students can apply in their first or second year or later.