Martin Partington: Spotlight on the Justice System

Keeping the English Legal System under review

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Martin Partington studied law at the University of Cambridge, graduating in 1965. He held a series of university teaching appointments at Warwick, the London School of Economics, Brunel, and Bristol. He also qualified as a barrister; he was a founder member of and, though no longer in practice, remains a Door Tenant at Arden Chambers, London.

From January 2001 he took up appointment as Law Commissioner for England and Wales (2001 – 2006) and Special Consultant (to 2008). There he led major projects on the reform of housing law (which are now being implemented by the Welsh Assembly Government), and other projects on administrative justice.

Throughout his career he has been interested in seeing how law works in different contexts, not just the formal context of the courts. Thus, he helped establish and run a legal Advice Centre in Coventry in the early 1970s. In the 1980s and 1990s he was a part-time judge in the social security tribunal system. He was for a number of years a member of the management committee of the Paddington Law Centre and he chaired the management committee of Uxbridge Citizens Advice Bureau.

He has always been interested in legal education and the relationship between the so-called ‘academic’ stage and the ‘professional’ stage. He was a member of the Law Society Education and Training Committee that created the Legal Practice Course. For a time he was closely involved in judicial training, first of social security tribunal judges, later through his membership of the Judicial Studies Board. He was a consultant to the University (formerly College) of Law. He was also a consultant on judicial and professional legal education in Qatar.

He is also interested in the relationship between law and society. He helped to found (with Dame Hazel Genn QC) the Socio-legal Studies Association – a group of scholars and practitioners which sought to bring together lawyers, social scientists and policy makers, in order to improve understanding about the impact of law on society.

In the 1970s, he worked with a number of lobbying organisations seeking to promote reform of the law, notably the Legal Action Group and the Society of Labour Lawyers.

More recently he was a member of a number of important government and other official committees. For example, he was an expert consultee to the Leggatt Review of Tribunals (2001) and to the review of Employment Tribunals (2002).

His principal areas of expertise are:

(i)                  Housing Law. He researched and taught housing law for over 30 years. He co-authored (with Andrew Arden QC) the leading practitioner’s text on Housing law, first published in 1983, and now kept up-to-date in loose-leaf format (Sweet and Maxwell).

(ii)                Social Security Law. He was a past social security editor for the Industrial Law Journal and was for a number of years a part-time chairman of social security appeal tribunals. For many years he wrote the UK entry on social security for the International Encyclopaedia of Laws. (Kluwer) (4th edition published 2012)

(iii)               Administrative Justice. Building on his tribunal experience, he has analysed institutional developments in administrative justice and sought to elucidate the values which underpin the concept. For six years, he was a member of the Council on Tribunals.

(iv)              Legal System. For many years, he taught courses on the English Legal System.He was a member of the Lord Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on Legal Aid, and of the Civil Justice Council. He chaired its ADR sub-committee. This remains an on-going area of interest.

While now retired from full-time employment, he continues to write in his areas of expertise; he chairs the board of The Dispute Service – which provides alternative dispute resolution services to landlords and tenants contesting how deposits should be divided at the end of a tenancy – neatly combining his interest in housing law and ADR. In 2011/2012 he was a consultant to the Public Administration Select Committee of the House of Commons. In 2012, he was invited to talk to officials in the Welsh Assembly Government about the Law Commission’s Housing Law Reform reports. In May 2013, the Welsh Government announced that they would be implementing the recommendations of the Law Commission.

He was appointed CBE in 2002; elected a Bencher of Middle Temple in 2006; and appointed an Honorary QC in 2008.


Written by lwtmp

September 11, 2011 at 9:28 am

One Response

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  1. Your blog is very useful, Martin. Thank you for doing it. I am managing the ADRnow website on behalf of Advice Services Alliance, which I think you are familiar with. Advice Services Alliance has a long-standing interest in appropriate dispute resolution (ADR) and its impact on access to justice, particularly in the areas of social welfare law. We have on the site a collection of summaries of research on ADR in the past 15 years, which might be of interest to some of your readers. I wonder if it would be possible to include a link to the site from your blog? The url is

    Many thanks.

    Margaret Doyle

    Margaret Doyle

    December 13, 2011 at 4:55 pm

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