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Professional Doctorate in Law

Start Date
Saturday 24 September 2022 at 1:00 PM
Delivery Method
Blended Learning - 3.5 years duration
Course Leader
Rory O’Boyle, Solicitor, Course Coordinator (Ireland): R.OBoyle@lawsociety.ie
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If you are interested in applying for a future offering of the course please register for our Interested List. 

While every effort is made to accommodate all eligible applications, from a supervisory resource perspective it may be necessary to cap numbers. Selection criteria will be based on the date applications are received and the availability of supervisors.  Any eligible applicant whose application is not accepted in a given year will be given priority for the following year.


Diploma brochure

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Programme overview

The Professional Doctorate in Law is offered in partnership with the Northumbria Law School and is specifically designed for qualified solicitors. It is a part-time programme structured to facilitate those in full-time employment. The programme is designed to provide a structured and supportive learning experience that will enhance a solicitor’s theoretical understanding of their profession and will assist in the development of practice, through critical insight and evaluation, building on academic and research skills acquired via formal subject delivery and the doctoral research subsequently conducted. The research may be doctrinal, perhaps in a practice based area, such as criminal justice and evidence, or the law in action, in areas such as human rights or data collection and privacy or legal education. Those that complete the Professional Doctorate in Law will have made a significant and original contribution to the creation and interpretation of a body of knowledge, and be at the forefront of practice development. The programme aims to enable candidates to:

  • Acquire a range of research skills and to be able to apply these to the conceptualisation, design and implementation of a project, adjusting design in the light of unforeseen problems;
  • Be able to translate ideas into a form understandable by and meaningful to their profession;
  • Produce a thesis or portfolio of original quality in the professional area;
  • Disseminate/publish that research and its outcomes to the professional audience.

The taught element of the programme is assessed by the proposal assignment and the research element is assessed by submission of the final thesis or portfolio culminating in a viva voce examination with two independent examiners.
During the programme, candidates will develop their research skills and critical abilities as autonomous practitioners in the legal profession. The programme has been designed to provide a means of progression from an established academic knowledge base of a Masters qualification in law and/or an equivalent qualification with professional work experience in legal practice. The programme contains a number of methods by which the candidate may enhance their personal development and career progression. This will also impact on the profession as a whole. These methods include: research appreciation, giving an opportunity to develop research as a craft; team working; project management; leadership; ability to use and enable others to use R&D to advance practice; collaborative learning in a multi-professional context. 

Who should attend

The programme is only open to Irish qualified lawyers and is designed for two kinds of candidate: firstly, those with a professional experience and a Master’s degree within the last five years; and secondly, those with professional experience but without a Master’s degree. All candidates will undergo assessment for advanced standing entry onto the programme that will formally capture their attainment of the required Level 10 of the Irish National Framework of Qualification. Evidence for this will be provided both by their application and subsequent interview.

The taught element

The candidate will be required to successfully complete the Advanced Research Methods Module 30 (credits) which takes place during the first six months of the programme. This module builds on candidates' previous research skills and knowledge of research techniques to further enhance understanding of methodologies, methods and advanced techniques that are central to developing a coherent and well-argued research proposal.

During the taught element of the programme students will also be required to develop and submit a research proposal. The research proposal will constitute not only the module assignment but also bridges from the taught component to the research component of the programme.  

The research phase

The programme of independent research begins once the proposal assignment has been accepted.  The candidate and their supervisory team meet regularly (a minimum of monthly with the principal supervisor) and record their progress through the e-vision online recordkeeping system.  Each year the panel reconvenes to assess written evidence of the candidate’s work (for example, a literature review chapter or an analysis of data) and to reconsider the shape of the research project as a whole, so that the candidate remains on track for a timely completion. Recommendations can be made at these progression points for additional training and support for the candidate or changes and additions to the supervisory team.  It is recognised that the doctoral process is a complex and emergent one and the programme aims to provide flexibility and support throughout.

The final artefact of the Professional Doctorate in Law can be either a thesis document, normally of a doctoral format familiar in the social sciences or a portfolio submission.  The assessment criteria are the same for both routes: the candidate must demonstrate critical engagement with the field and show a contribution to knowledge and practice. 

This is a 3.5 year programme. Study breaks are only given for extenuating circumstances and in accordance with the University Regulations. Fees will continue to fall due as and when they arise, regardless of any study break that might apply, with the duration of the study break then applied at the end of 3.5 year programme.  

Previous thesis topics have included:

  • Addressing the expert and their evidence: What challenges could be utilised to ensure a rigorous and effective assessment of the admissibility and presentation of expert evidence?
  • The social construction of cats and dogs as pets and the implications for resolving Pet Custody Disputes in England and Wales
  • Privacy and Data Protection: factors impacting the enforcement of data protection rights in the UK
  • Corporate manslaughter: lessons for practitioners, law students and corporations
  • What was the legal impact in general, and in particular what impact did changes in commercial and regulatory law have, on business, international trade/commerce and economic growth from 1815 to 1939 on Tyneside, the River Tyne and the port of Tyne?
  • A critical examination of the overriding powers contained in Section 203 of the Housing and Planning Act 2016
  • An exploration of the issues and challenges faced by the legal profession when complying with anti-money laundering laws and regulations.
  • To what extent do traditional forums of informal dispute resolution operate within community and religious organisations in Newcastle’s West End in relation to family law disputes and how does this facilitate and/or prohibit access to justice for female users?
  • Does ‘suspicious recognition’ operate in practice in the way that the guidance assumes it will?
  • Can we improve patient outcomes in the First-tier Tribunal (Mental Health)?


For further information please contact Rory O’Boyle - Tel: +353(0) 1 8815774 - Email: r.oboyle@lawsociety.ie .


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This item is not available to book online