Linda Mulcahy

Administrative support: Rachel Yarham
Room:  New Academic Building 7.15
Tel. 020-7955-7268

Professor Linda Mulcahy joined the Law Department in 2010. Having gained qualifications in law, sociology and the history of art and architecture, Linda’s work has a strong interdisciplinary flavour. Her research focuses on disputes and their resolution and she has studied the socio-legal dynamics of disputes in a number of contexts including the car distribution industry, NHS, divorce, public sector complaints systems and judicial review. Her work often has an empirical focus and she has received a number of grants from the ESRC, AHRC, Department of Health, Nuffield Foundation and Lotteries Fund in support of her work.  In recent years she has been working on the relationship between due process and the design of law courts.  She is also interested in visual representations of justice. In addition to her work in the Law Department Linda is the first Director of the LSE’s new PhD Academy.

Research Interests

Linda’s research interests lie in the field of dispute resolution. Her published work focuses on the evolution and dynamics of disputes, mediated settlement and the trial. Most recently she has written a book on the ways in which the design of law courts conditions the enjoyment of due process rights. Linda is currently in receipt of two research grants. The first of these is an AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award which is held in partnership with the British Library and seeks to bring together the Library’s expertise in oral history with the LSE’s Legal Biography Project, of which Linda is a co-director. This project grant is funding a study of the oral history of court clerks. Her second grant from the Leverhulme Trust is being used to explore the recent history of court design and is being conducted with the co-operation of the Ministry of Justice. Linda is co-directing this project with architect Emma Rowden.

External Activities

Professor Mulcahy regularly works with NGOs and government Departments in promoting research led policy initiatives.  Over the last two years she has been closely involved with JUSTICE and contributed to papers produced by them on the abolition of the dock and the re-imagining of courts. Her research on disputes between doctors and patients resulted in her appointment as an expert consultant to several NHS bodies including the Neale, Kerr Haslam and Ayling Inquiries, the Health Care Commission, The Commission for the Regulation of Healthcare Professions, and the Judicial Studies Board. She has had close links with the Public Law Project and has produced two research reports with them on hospital complaints procedures and judicial review.  She is a former Chair and Treasurer of the UK Socio-Legal Studies Association and continues to be closely involved in its annual national conference for PhD students. In the last year she has lectured in Germany, France, Australia and the United States. Linda is an editor of Social and Legal Studies and a founding member of the editorial board for Palgrave Macmillan’s socio-legal book series.


Legal Architecture : Justice, Due Process and the Place of Law (Routledge : 2010)

Legal Architecture addresses how the environment of the trial can be seen as a physical expression of our relationship with ideals of justice. It provides an alternative account of the trial, which charts the troubled history of notions of due process and participation. In contrast to visions of judicial space as neutral, Linda Mulcahy argues that understanding the factors that determine the internal design of the courthouse and courtroom are crucial to a broader and more nuanced understanding of the trial. Partitioning of the courtroom into zones and the restriction of movement within it are the result of turf wars about who can legitimately participate in the legal arena and call the judiciary to account. The gradual containment of the public, the increasing amount of space allocated to advocates, and the creation of dedicated space for journalists and the jury, all have complex histories that deserve attention. But these issues are not only of historical significance. Across jurisdictions, questions are now being asked about the internal configurations of the courthouse and courtroom, and whether standard designs meet the needs of modern participatory democracies: including questions about the presence and design of the modern dock; the ways in which new technologies threaten to change the dynamics of the trial and lead to the dematerialization of our primary site of adversarial practice; and the extent to which courthouses are designed in ways which realise their professed status as public spaces. This fascinating and original reflection on legal architecture will be of interest to socio-legal or critical scholars working in the field of legal geography, legal history, criminology, legal systems, legal method, evidence, human rights and architecture.

Carl Stychin and Linda Mulcahy, Legal Methods and Systems: Text and Materials London: Sweet and Maxwell (4th ed. 2010)

The fourth edition of this cases and materials book published in September 2010 aims to introduce law students to traditional foundations of legal reasoning alongside socio-legal and critical material which questions the canon. In addition to the material in previous editions the most recent version of this cases and materials book reflects on ongoing discussion about human rights, the changing landscape of dispute resolution and diversity in the legal profession; the reform of the tribunal system; the opening of the Supreme Court and the ways in which the insights of comparative lawyers have resonance in contemporary debates aout the multi-cultural nature of our society

Mulcahy, L., (2008) Contract Law in Perspective, 5th edition, Routledge-Cavendish, London.

Contract Law in Perspective - coverContract Law in Perspective complements 'black letter' treatments of contract by looking at legal doctrine and statutes in their social, political and economic contexts. In addition to examining the key doctrines in the field, it explains the ideology behind them and considers the extent to which they serve the needs of the business community and consumers. By taking the ‘big ideas’ in contract theory and relating these to practice, the book hopes to broaden understanding and appreciation of the contemporary relevance subject.

Mulcahy, L., and S. Wheeler (2005) Feminist Perspectives on Contract, Cavendish Publishing, London

Feminist Perspectives on ContractThis edited collection questions the assumptions about feminist perspectives on contract law made in mainstream scholarship and the ideologies that underpin them, drawing attention to the ways in which the law of contract has facilitated the virtual exclusion of women, the feminine and the private sphere from legal discourse.

Mulcahy, L., (2003) Disputing Doctors: The socio-legal dynamics of complaints about doctors, Open University Press, Buckingham.

Disputing Doctors - coverThis book looks at the dynamics of doctor-patient disputes. Reflecting on fifteen years of empirical research on disputes in the NHS it considers the contexts in which these disputes arise, the different ways in which the parties construct disputing narratives and moral identities in the course of making and defending their claims, and the extent to which existing systems for resolving disputes are sensitive to their needs. Based on research with patients, relatives, doctors and NHS managers, the book analyses how they perceive these disputes and what they seek to achieve by holding each other to account.

Selected articles
and chapters in books

(with Tatiana Flessas) 'Limiting Law: Art in the Street and Street in the Art' Law, Culture and the Humanities (2016) pp.1-23

Conventional legal responses to street art have tended to characterize it as a problem that is best dealt regulated through criminal or property law. This is not necessarily perceived of as a problem by street artists who have actively sought to situate understandings of their work outside of the law. But attitudes are changing. Street art is increasingly seen as having commercial value, enhancing the cityscape, creating new local art markets, attracting tourists, and contributing to the gentrification of impoverished areas. The result is that conventional ways of conceiving of street art have begun to pose new challenges to concepts of crime and property. Drawing on an observational study in London, this article proposes a new theorization of the legal problems posed by street art that pays close attention to the sensual experience of encountering it in the city and to street art as performance rather than artefact.

'Docile Suffragettes? Resistance to Police Photography and the Possibility of Object–Subject Transformation' Feminist Legal Studies (April 2015)

This paper provides a revisionist account of the authority and power of the criminal mugshot. Dominant theories in the field have tended to focus on the ways in which mugshots have been used as a way of disciplining criminal bodies and rendering them docile. It is argued here that additional emphasis could usefully be placed on stories of resistance in which the monological production site of the prison or police station transforms into a dialogical site, in which the objects of police photography can acquire agency. These issues are explored with particular reference to a set of photographs of English suffragettes acquired by the police for surveillance purposes. The suffragette’s refusal to comply with requests to have their photographs taken is used as a case study through which to examine the ways in which conventions about the form of the mugshot can be subverted, ideas about the types of people who were the object/subject of mugshots disrupted and the assumption of documentary neutrality undermined.

'Watching Women: What Illustrations of Courtroom Scenes Tell Us about Women and the Public Sphere in the Nineteenth Century' Journal of Law and Society 1 (2015) pp.53-73

This article provides a revisionist account of the role of women in the legal system in the latter decades of the nineteenth century. Contrary to assertions that women played no role in trials other than as defendants and witnesses for most of our legal history, it suggests that women were much more active in the public sphere of Victorian law courts than previously envisaged. Drawing on depictions of trials in popular visual culture and fine art, it also reveals how images of the active female spectator challenged the emergence of new codes of behaviour which sought to protect the masculine realm of law from corruption by the feminine. It is argued that images have much to reveal about the socio-legal dynamics of trials and the ways in which fine art has been complicit in the construction and reconstruction of behavioural codes in the courtroom.  

(with David Sugarman) 'Introduction: Legal Life Writing and Marginalized Subjects and Sources' Journal of Law and Society 1 (2015) pp.1-6

'The Market for Precedent: Shifting Visions of the Role of Clinical Negligence Claims and Trials' Medical Law Review (2014) 22 (2) pp.274-290

This article considers the interface between the standard setting activity of the NHS Litigation Authority, and the courts and uses the clinical negligence action as a prism through which to examine it. It is suggested that despite its many disadvantages, the clinical negligence action remains an important safety valve when internal regulatory systems fail or are insufficiently transparent to gain full legitimacy. More specifically, it explores the ways in which attitudes about the usefulness of the data contained in claims against the NHS have changed in the aftermath of a number of high profile inquiries which have focused on issues of poor performance. The article concludes that while much greater use is now been made of the data contained in claims when setting standards, strategies for prompting judicial precedent as an alternative way of mobilising standard setting behaviour remain under developed.

'I'm Not Watching I'm Waiting: the Construction of Visual Codes about Womens' Role as Spectators in the Trial in Nineteenth Century England' Legal Information Management (2014) 14 (1) pp.22-26

Accounts of the interface between law, gender and modernity have tended to stress the many ways in which women experienced the metropolis differently from men in the nineteenth century. Considerable attention has been paid to the notion of separate spheres and to the ways in which the public realm came to be closely associated with the masculine worlds of productive labour, politics, law and public service. Much art of the period draws our attention to the symbiotic relationship between representations of gender and prevailing notions of their place. Drawing on well known depictions of women onlookers in the trial in fine art, this essay by Linda Mulcahy explores the ways in which this genre contributed to the disciplining of women in the public sphere and encouraged them to go no further than the margins of the law court.

Putting the Defendant in Their Place: Why Do We Still Use the Dock in Criminal Proceedings?” (2013)  British Journal of Criminology  53 (6), pp. 1139-1156

This article considers the extent to which the on-going use of the dock in criminal proceedings can be justified. It is argued that the use of the dock interferes with the defendant’s ability to participate in the trial, the right to counsel and the presumption of innocence. This has been recognized in some jurisdictions and, in the United Kingdom, its use has been criticized by key stakeholders in the criminal justice system. Despite the launching of campaigns for its abolition, the English dock is becoming increasingly fortified and continues to be used to incarcerate defendants in trials involving minor charges. Drawing on previously unexplored archives and data from the United States, this article seeks to understand justifications for the retention of the dock and the reasons why campaigns for its abolition have failed.

'Four reflections on "The art of justice: The judge's perspective"' Leslie J. Moran, Gary Watt, Linda Mulcahy and David Isaac. Law and Humanities 2013, 7(1), 113-128.

'Imagining Alternative Visions of Justice: An Exploration of the Controversy Surrounding Stirling Lee's Depictions of Justitia in Nineteenth-Century Liverpool' Law, Culture and the Humanities (2013) 9 (2) pp.311-329

In recent years there has been a burgeoning interest in the relationship between law, art and politics. New work in the field encourages us to explore the ways in which art can pose a threat to the supposed rationality of modern law by appealing to imagination and emotion. This article explores these general themes with reference to a specific controversy about a series of bas relief sculptures depicting Justitia which were placed on the side of what was arguably the most spectacular law court to be built in England in the nineteenth century. Although this episode has been explored by art historians, hardly any attention has been drawn to what the episode reveals about the political work that art was, and is, expected to undertake on behalf of the elite and legal establishment. This article attempts to bridge that gap by exploring the extent to which the creator of public artwork, so often a handmaiden of the State when helping us to imagine justice, is also capable of presenting us with subversive images of our Goddess which can, and should, disturb us.

'The Collective Interest in Private Dispute Resolution' Oxford Journal of Legal Studies 2012

This article considers the relationship between the interests of individual litigants and the facilitation of doctrine for the collective good. More specifically, it examines the extent to which the policy and rules governing the management of civil litigation reflect a genuine commitment to the development of the common law. It is argued that litigation models in England send out conflicting messages about the commitment our society has to nurturing precedents and that we remain ambivalent about whether resources should be directed to identifying cases with precedent-setting potential. Contrary to recent policy statements that encourage disputants to resolve issues in private forums such as mediation, this article concludes that the time is ripe to turn our attention to the equally important issue of how to ensure that certain types of cases reach a public forum.

'Baird Textile Holdings v Marks and Spencer Plc' (with Cathy Andrews) in Feminist Judgments: From Theory to Practice edited by Rosemary hunter, Clare McGlynn and Erika Rackley, Oxford: Hart Publishing 2010

Whilst feminist legal scholarship has thrived within universities and in some sectors of legal practice, it has yet to have much impact within the judiciary or on judicial thinking. Thus, while feminist legal scholarship has generated comprehensive critiques of existing legal doctrine, there has been little opportunity to test or apply feminist knowledge in practice, in decisions in individual cases. In this book, a group of feminist legal scholars put theory into practice in judgment form, by writing the 'missing' feminist judgments in key cases. Linda Mulcahy and Cathy Andrew's contribution to this book is a re-thinking of the judgment in Baird Textile Holdings v Marks and Spencer Plc and is accompanied by a commentary on the case and new judgment by John Wightman.

'Fortresses, Cathedrals and Monuments to law: What does the architecture of the law court tell us about the role of law in sciety over time' Supreme Court History Program Yearbook 2009, Supreme Court of Queensland (2010)

Bondy, Varda and Mulcahy, Linda, (2009) Mediation and judicial review, Public Law Project.

The aim of the research reported here was to establish an independent evidence base for identifying the value and the limits of mediation as an alternative to, or used alongside, judicial review. It was devised in response to claims made by government and mediation providers that mediation can lead to savings in costs as well as in court time, and provide remedies and solutions to disputes that cannot be offered by the court. These claims were considered in the specific context of judicial review, which not only has an important constitutional function, but, compared to other forms of civil litigation, offers litigants flexibility, low costs and speed. It is argued that claims as to the value of mediation need to be examined in light of the realities of judicial review litigation.

"…provide[s] an illuminating picture of how judicial review claims are run and resolved by lawyers, judges and mediators. They raise the curtain on the world of pre-hearing settlements and provide a surprisingly optimistic picture of the ability fo lawyers to come to staisfactory outcomes without the intervention of mediators and judges. The Public Law project, and the Nuffield Foundation which funded the research, deserve high praise for the quality of the papers and the comprehensive nature of the research'.

Toby Fischer in Judicial Review, 2009

Mulcahy, L., (2008) ‘The unbearable lightness of being – Shifts towards the virtual trial’, Journal of Law and Society, Vol. 35(4) pp.464-489.

Shortlisted for the 2009 Socio-Legal Studies Association article prize. this article examines the implications of allowing witnesses to give evidence in trials from other locations through the medium of ‘live link’. Academic commentary on this technological aid has to date focused on the impact it has on the defendant’s right to cross-examine or the ability to judge demeanour. Whilst these issues are important, this essay focuses on a less commented on implication of live link; its impact on our conception of where and how adjudication takes place. Particular emphasis is placed on the ways in which the courtroom as the prime site of legal practice is in danger of being dematerialised and the effect this is likely to have on the legitimacy of the trial as an authentic legal and public ritual.

Mulcahy, L., (2008) ‘Architectural Precedent: Manchester Assize Courts and Monuments to law in the mid Victorian era’, 19 Kings Law Journal pp.525-550

This article looks at a much-neglected topic in accounts of the modern legal system: the architecture of law courts. It is argued that a closer examination of radical changes to the ways in which the internal space of the courthouse and courtroom were organised in the mid-nineteenth century can tell us much about how lawyers came to dominate the trial. The essay focuses on the design and planning of the Manchester Assize Courts, a building which can accurately be described as one of the first, if not the first, modern courthouse. It considers how the courthouse came to symbolise new ideas about the civic sphere, the increased reliance on the segregation of participants in the trial, and the role of law in Victorian society. Particular attention is placed on the link between new social and cultural movements and the architect, Alfred Waterhouse.

Mulcahy, L., (2007) ‘Architects of Justice: the politics of court house design’, Social and Legal Studies, Vol. 16(3) pp.383-403.

This article looks at the interface between the design of courtrooms and the notion of participatory justice. In contrast to a vision of judicial space as neutral this article argues that understanding the factors which determine the internal design of the courtroom are crucial to a broader and more nuanced understanding of judgecraft. The use of space in the courtroom has changed significantly since custom built courthouses first began to be built and these changes often reflect struggles for territory. In this essay I focus on the ways in the role of the spectator has been marginalized within the court and led to the demise of the notion of ‘public’ trial. This has been achieved through a series of design guides which ensure that participants in the trial are isolated and surveyed. The origins of these guides can be traced to the mid-Victoria era in which the public were often conceived of as threatening and ‘dirty’.

Mulcahy, L., (2005) ‘Feminist Fever? Cultures of Adversarialism in the aftermath of the Woolf Reforms’, Current legal Problems, Oxford University Press, Oxford vol.58 edited by Jane Holder and Colm O’Cinneide, pp.215-234.