Pascoe Pleasence, Nigel J. Balmer and Catrina Denvir
beneﬁts, consumer goods and services, and our environment.4Yet, it appear s
that, at least in some contexts, ‘the vast majority of the population systemati-
cally mispredicts . . . the content of the law’.5A steadily growing number of
studies of the public’s understanding of law point to a substantial knowledge
The deﬁcit appears greater in some areas of law than others, in part a
function of salience.7After all, there is less reason for individuals to possess
knowledge with no clear bearing on their lives. So, for example, Casebourne et
al’s study of employee awareness of employment rights in the United Kingdom
demonstrated that those with dependent children were ‘understandably’ more
likely than others to know a lot or fair amount about the detail of the parental
right to request ﬂexible working (40 per cent vs 27 per cent).8There is also
less reason for people to have a grasp of the intricacies of the law than broader
legal principles, and again this is reﬂected in ﬁndings to date.9
Furthermore, there is evidence of a lesser deﬁcit for those with an interest
in or, more predictably, relevant experience of the law. So, Baker and Emery10
found that students just about to start a course on family law had slightly
4 See,forexample,G.Teubner,Juridiﬁcation of Social Spheres: A Comparative Analysis in the Areas of
Labour, Corporate, Antitrust and Social Welfare Law (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1987); G. Howells,
and S. Weatherill, Consumer Protection Law (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2nd ed, 2005); T. Goriely,
‘Making the Welfare State Work: Chang ing Conceptions of Legal Remedies within the British
Welfare State’ in F. Regan, A. Paterson, T. Goriely and D. Fleming (eds), The Transformation of
Legal Aid (Oxford: OUP, 1998); H. Gibson, ‘Home-School Agreements: explaining the growth
of “juridiﬁcation” and contractualism in schools’ (2013) 39 Oxford Review of Education 780; K.
Veitch, ‘Juridiﬁcation, Medicalisation, and the Impact of EU Law: Patient Mobility and the
Allocation of Scarce NHS Resources’ (2012) 20 Medical Law Review 362; Veitch, Christodoulidis
and Farmer, n 2 above.
5 K. Williams, Litigants in Person: A Literature Review, (London: Ministry of Justice, 2011).
6 See, for example, C. F. Cor tese, ‘A Study in Knowledge and Attitudes Towards the Law’ (1966)
2Rocky Mountain Social Science Journal 192; M. Williams and J. Hall, ‘Knowledge of the Law
in Texas: Socioeconomic and Ethnic Differences’ (1972) 7 Law and Society Review 99; L. V.
E. Saunders, ‘Collective Ignorance: Public Knowledge of Family Law’ (1975) 24 The Family
Coordinator 69; P. T. Kim, ‘Norms, Learning, and Law: Exploring the Inﬂuences on Workers’
Legal Knowledge’ (1999) 2 University of Illinois Law Review 447; J.M. Darley, C. A. Sanderson and
P. S. LaMantia, ‘Community Standards for Deﬁning Attempt: Inconsistencies with the Model
Penal Code’ (1996) 39 American Behavioral Scientist 405; A. Barlow, S. Duncan, G. James and
A. Park, Cohabitation, Marriage and the Law: Social Change and Legal Reform in the 21st Century
(Oxford: Hart, 2005); M. Militello, D. Schimmel and H. J. Eberwein, ‘If They Knew, They
WouldChange’ (2009) 93 NASSP Bulletin 27; R. Panades, R. Corney, C. Ayles,J. Reynolds and
F. Hovsepian, Informing Unmarried Parents About their Legal Rights at Birth Registration (London:
One Plus One, 2007); L. J. Parle, Measuring young people’s legal capability (London: Independent
Academic Research Studies and PLEnet, 2009); P. Pleasence and N. J. Balmer, ‘Ignorance in
Bliss: Modeling Knowledge of Rights in Marriage and Cohabitation’ (2012) 46 Law and Society
Review 297; C. Denvir, N. J. Balmer, and P. Pleasence, ‘When legal rights are not a reality:
do individuals know their rights and how can we tell?’ (2013) 35 Journal of Social Welfare and
Family Law 139; L. A. Baker and R. E. Emery, ‘When Every Relationship is Above Average –
Perceptions and Expectations of Divorce at the Time of Marriage’ (1993) 17 Law and Human
7 See, for example, Saunders, ibid;J.Casebourne,J.Regan,F.NeatheyandS.Tuohy,Employment
Rights at Work: A Survey of Employees 2005 (London: Department of Trade and Industry, 2006);
Pleasence and Balmer ibid.
8 Casebourne et al, ibid.
10 Baker and Emory, n 6 above.
C2017 The Author. The Modern Law Review C2017 The Modern Law Review Limited.
(2017) 80(5) MLR 836–859 837