History of the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (IALS)

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The Institute of Advanced Legal Studies was established by the University of London in 1947 to be “an institution which would be a headquarters for academic research and would promote the advancement of knowledge of law in the most general terms”. Since then, IALS has developed into a national law library as well as an academic centre promoting and facilitating research as part of the School of Advanced Study.

To mark its 75th birthday, IALS will be running a series of events throughout 2022, showcasing the broad range of research that is supported and enabled by the Institute. This includes the W.G. Hart Workshop, our flagship academic conference, collaborations with partner organisations such as UN-Habitat and the Westminster Foundation for Democracy, and events led by our research centres.

The general aims and objects of the Institute were from the beginning proclaimed to be:

the prosecution and promotion of legal research and training of graduate students in its principles and methods

The idea of a national Institute, housing what is our national law library, with a brief to promote and facilitate research in law at an advanced level, both nationally and internationally, can be traced back to a speech delivered in Lincoln's Inn, by the then Lord Chief Justice, Lord Russell of Killowen, on 28 October 1895 in which he called for an initiative to establish such an institution.

The seeds that Lord Russell and others planted grew towards the idea of creating an institute of advanced legal research. The appointment in August 1932 by the then Lord Chancellor, Lord Sankey, of an expert committee on Legal Education under Lord Atkins was a key moment towards making the idea a reality. This important committee was charged to consider not only the organisation of legal education but also "further provision for advanced research in legal studies".

The committee discovered considerable support in the academic world (particularly from the Society of Public Teachers in Law - SPTL) and also within the professions for the establishment of "an institution which would be a headquarters for academic research and would promote the advancement of knowledge of law in the most general terms" and in particular on a comparative basis.

Page last updated: 4th March 2022