United around the theme of social justice, these discussions by the Open University’s legal academics examine controversial legal issues which have posed difficulties for law and society. Each post takes a critical look at the development of an area of law over the fifty years that the Open University has been in existence. Much has changed and is changing as we write: for example, the constitutional settlement between the nations of the UK, and the relationships between Europe and the UK.

Different understandings of gender, sexual offences, disability, equality, religion and race have changed the face of the law, as has increasing attention to human rights. The growth of judicial review has meant that the courts have had to carefully navigate the political/juridical divide. The creation of the Supreme Court has added a different dynamic, moving the most senior members of the judiciary from their traditional location within the political establishment. The courts have developed their jurisprudence against the background of challenging issues such as terrorism, the need to protect the environment, and ensuring fair treatment of those who are detained by the state.

Economic and social change has altered the nature of the legal profession and also the study of law. Professional legal training is about to be subject to radical change with the express aim of opening the profession to those from non-traditional backgrounds.

These discussions are designed to illuminate our understanding of law, legal learning, and what it means to practice law in the 21st century. They will open a window on the law, to deepen our understanding of how law and lawyers have changed or should change to accommodate the pressures of living in the 21st Century.

In the spirit of the Open University, we are opening our blog to people, places, methods and ideas. We welcome you to our blog and invite you to comment on our posts and start a discussion about our pieces throughout our celebration of the OU’s 50 years of existence. We hope you enjoy the read.

Editors: Lisa Claydon and Caroline Derry

Media editor: Marjan Ajevski