• King's College London logo
  • The Judiciary of England and Wales

The Modern Judiciary: Who They Are, What They Do and Why it Matters

Explore the role of judges in the UK and learn about the daily business of judging, from common law to judicial diversity.

9,391 enrolled on this course

  • Duration

    5 weeks
  • Weekly study

    3 hours

Who are judges, what do they do, and why does it matter?

From criminal trials to Brexit, judges in courts and tribunals across the country make decisions that affect our daily lives everyday, but their role isn’t always understood.

On this course, you’ll be introduced to the role of judges in the legal system of England and Wales through an array of articles, cases and interviews with judges.

You’ll explore how judgement works and engage with the work of the judiciary through the study of a recent decision of your chosen court. You’ll also consider how judges are portrayed in the media and learn how working practices have evolved over time.

Skip to 0 minutes and 11 seconds Welcome to our course on the Modern Judiciary, who our judges are, what they do, and why that matters. My name is James Lee, and I teach law at the Dickson Poon School of Law at King’s College London, and this course is delivered in partnership with King’s College and the Judicial Office. What we’re going to do is learn more about the everyday working lives of our judges and how that bears on everyday members of the public, like you and me. And we’ll do that by reading together real-life decisions from the courts, also speeches, we’ll have interviews with judges themselves. ‘There’s a vast range of jobs open to lawyers.’

Skip to 0 minutes and 46 seconds And we’ll have mini lectures and a variety of other content articles and cases to read. In addition, there’ll be interactive opportunities through quizzes and fora to deepen our understanding together. We look forward to teaching you.


  • Week 1

    Judges and the Legal System

    • Introduction and Engagement

      Introduction to Judges

    • Understanding the Legal System of England and Wales

      Judges and the Legal System

  • Week 2

    Judges and Legal Reasoning

    • Common Law Reasoning

      How judges reason with cases

    • Statutory Interpretation

      The various techniques adopted when applying legislative rules to the facts of real cases.

    • Reasoning in Practice

      Judicial interviews about decision-making

  • Week 3

    Judging in Courts and Tribunals

    • Reminder of Court Structures

      Revisiting the structures of the courts

    • Criminal Courts

      Examining the work of judges in the criminal courts

    • Sentencing

      How judges approach sentencing

    • Civil Cases

      Examining the work of judges in civil (non-criminal) cases

    • Tribunals

      Examining the work of judges and members in the tribunals system

    • The UK Supreme Court, CoVid-19; and Conclusions

      A short extract from the 2019-20 Annual Report of the Supreme Court on its shift to online hearings during the pandemic. We then conclude with reflections on Week 3.

  • Week 4

    Judges beyond the Court Room

    • Introduction

      Introduction to Judges and the Judiciary

    • Judicial activities outside of court

      Who are judges and what else do they do?

    • Judicial Appointments

      How judges are appointed and the qualifications required

    • Diversity in the Judiciary

      Understanding diversity, engaging with statistics, and profiles of judges.

  • Week 5

    Judges, the Media and the Public

    • Introduction to Week 5: Judges, the Media and the Public

      Introduction to Week 5: Judges, the Media and the Public

    • Judges and the Media

      Examining how judges are portrayed in the media

    • Judicial Independence

      Examining the importance of judicial independence

    • Conclusions

      Reflections on the course as a whole

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Describe the role of the judiciary in the legal system of England & Wales, and the United Kingdom.
  • Explain how judges reason when deciding cases, both in trials and hearings, and on appeal.
  • Explain the working practices of the judiciary have evolved over time.
  • Summarise a recent decision of your chosen court.
  • Evaluate a recent decision of your chosen court.
  • Evaluate the effect of reforms in respect of diversity of the judiciary.
  • Evaluate the portrayals of the judiciary in the media (both news reports and in fiction).

Who is the course for?

This course is designed primarily for young people interested in studying law.

The course will also be of interest to those at the beginning of their undergraduate law degrees as part of an Introduction to the English (& Welsh) Legal System course or module, and for non-Law university students interested in pursuing a career in the law.

There are no prerequisites for this course and anyone with an interest in the legal system of England and Wales would enjoy this course.

Who will you learn with?

I am an academic at The Dickson Poon School of Law at King's College London. I teach private law subjects and I write about how judges make decisions.

Who developed the course?

King's College London

King’s College London, established in 1829 and a founding college of the University of London, is one of the world’s leading research and teaching universities, based in the very heart of London.

The Judiciary of England and Wales

The Judiciary of England and Wales

Learning on FutureLearn

Your learning, your rules

  • Courses are split into weeks, activities, and steps to help you keep track of your learning
  • Learn through a mix of bite-sized videos, long- and short-form articles, audio, and practical activities
  • Stay motivated by using the Progress page to keep track of your step completion and assessment scores

Join a global classroom

  • Experience the power of social learning, and get inspired by an international network of learners
  • Share ideas with your peers and course educators on every step of the course
  • Join the conversation by reading, @ing, liking, bookmarking, and replying to comments from others

Map your progress

  • As you work through the course, use notifications and the Progress page to guide your learning
  • Whenever you’re ready, mark each step as complete, you’re in control
  • Complete 90% of course steps and all of the assessments to earn your certificate

Want to know more about learning on FutureLearn? Using FutureLearn

Learner reviews

Learner reviews cannot be loaded due to your cookie settings. Please and refresh the page to view this content.

Do you know someone who'd love this course? Tell them about it...