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Law in Action


Admission requirements

Students are expected to be in their third year of legal studies or of other disciplines,e.g. philosophy, psychology, criminology, sociology, anthropology, linguistics, or economics.


In this course, we will study the organization and behavior of the legal profession, mostly in western but also in non-western countries. In the first part of the course, which focuses on organization, we will explore what the social composition of the legal profession – ethnic, gender, or religious make-up – looks like today, and how it has changed over time. In trying to explain these changes, we will consider issues such as access to law schools and selection processes of law firms and other legal institutions. In the second part of the course, we will study the behavior of the legal profession. More specifically, we will examine how lawyers interact with clients, which cases they accept or neglect, and how contribute to the litigiousness of society. Furthermore, we will explore how legal professionals – lawyers, prosecutors, and judges – deal with ethical dilemmas, and cope during and after periods of authoritarianism.

Note: This course brings together law and the social sciences; it focuses on law in action. Most readings will accordingly be coming from the social sciences. This means that you will encounter methodological questions in this course. We will pick up these questions to sensitize you to social science methods, and help you further develop your analytical and critical reading skills.

Course objectives

At the end of the course, students should be able to summarize theories, compare theories, and use examples from the literature to illustrate these theories. Furthermore, students should be able to apply theories to actual cases. The theories pertain to the following subjects:

  1. Changes in the organization of the legal profession
  2. Differences between systems of legal education
  3. Distinctions in the composition of legal institutions
  4. Variation in interactions between lawyers and clients
  5. The role of lawyers in the litigiousness of society
  6. Decision-making by legal professionals in cases of ethical dilemmas
  7. The functioning of legal professionals during and after authoritarianism


The timetable of this course can be found in uSis.

Mode of instruction


  • Number of (2 hour) lectures: 6

  • Names of lecturers: Daniel Blocq

  • Required preparation by students: Students should read pre-assigned articles from academic journals.


  • Number of (2 hour) seminars: 6

  • Names of instructors: Daniel Blocq

  • Required preparation by students: Students should prepare questions and assignments for each meeting.

Assessment method

Examination form(s)

  • Written essay exam, open questions (80% of final grade).

  • Oral presentations (20% of final grade).

In case only a few students need to do the exam or the retake, the exam and/or the retake may be oral. In that case, you will be informed 10 days ahead of the scheduled date.

Areas to be tested within the exam
See course objectives.


More information on this course is offered in Blackboard.

Reading list

Obligatory course materials
Selected academic articles.

Course information guide:
Will be made available on Blackboard.

All reading materials will be placed on Blackboard.


Students have to register for courses and exams through uSis.
Students enrolled at another Dutch university than Leiden can obtain access to uSis, by first submitting the form Inschrijven als bijvak/gaststudent (unfortunately only available in Dutch).
Students not enrolled at any Dutch university (i.e. those doing the course as a Study Abroad Student (info in English), or as Contractonderwijs (info only in Dutch) should apply well in advance.

Contact information

  • Coordinator: Daniel Blocq

  • Work address: KOG, room B3.18

  • Contact information: Secretariat of the Van Vollenhoven Institute

  • Telephone number: 071 527 5252

  • Email:


  • Institute: Van Vollenhoven Institute for Law, Governance and Development

  • Department: Institute for the Interdisciplinary Study of the Law

  • Room number secretary: B.3.13

  • Opening hours: Mon-Fri 9.00-17.00

  • Telephone number secretary: 071 527 7260

  • Email Van Vollenhoven Institute:


The language of this course is English.


Anyone interested in registering for this paper as part of a Conventional Programme Schedule (Contractonderwijs), will find further information regarding costs, applications and registration, conditions etc. on the website of Juridisch PAO.