Who selects the Commission’s work programme?

From time to time we consult widely to help us draw up a new programme of law reform. The Law Commissions Act 1965 requires the Commission to submit “programmes for the examination of different branches of the law” to the Lord Chancellor for his approval before undertaking new work.

Before deciding which projects to take forward, the Law Commission takes views from judges, lawyers, Government Departments, the voluntary and business sectors, and the general public.

We also take on projects that are referred to us by Government Departments.

What criteria are used to select new projects?

The Commission considers reviewing an area of law reform against certain criteria:

  • importance – the extent to which the law is unsatisfactory, and the potential benefits from reform
  • suitability – whether the independent non-political Commission is the most suitable body to conduct the review
  • resources – valid experience of Commissioners and staff, funding available, and whether the project meets the requirements of the programme

What are the stages of a typical law reform project?

Once the Law Commission has agreed to review an area of law:

  • Initiation – we will decide on the remit of the project, in conjunction with the relevant Government department
  • Pre-consultation – in this phase, we will undertake a study of the area of law and identify its defects. We will also look at other systems of law to see how they deal with similar problems. At this stage we may also approach interest groups and specialists in the area, and produce preliminary scoping and issues papers
  • Consultation – a consultation paper is issued setting out in detail the existing law and its defects, giving the arguments for and against the possible solutions and inviting comments. The paper is circulated widely to all interested individuals and organisation, and to the media. We actively encourage feedback from any interested member of the public, including comments on problems we may not have dealt with or the likely effect of something we have proposed. You can respond to any of the Commission’s open consultations
  • Policy development – at this stage we will analyse the responses to the consultation, which will help us develop and refine our thinking. We may also produce further issues papers and consult on some or all of the draft Bill
  • Reporting – at the end of a project we will usually submit a report to the Lord Chancellor and relevant Secretary of State, giving our final recommendations and the reasons we are making them. Where necessary, we include a draft Bill that would give effect to our recommendations. Depending on the nature of the project, our final report may be an advice to government or a scoping report.

Assessing the impact of reform

At all stages of our work, from project selection through to making recommendations, we will assess the impact of reform. The Commission benefits from the expertise of an Economist, who provides specialist advice in relation to the assessment of the impact of our proposals for law reform.

Working with academics

The Law Commission draws on academic research and is able to work with academics in a variety of ways. The Law Commission of England and Wales and its use of Empirical Research was written to assist the Society of Legal Scholars, the Socio-Legal Studies Association and the Association of Law Teachers in disseminating this information among researchers.