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Legal encounters

Focus of research and subject matter

The Legal Encounters-group studies the relationships between legal representatives such as lawyers, administrative officers, prison officers, police officers and citizens such as clients, inmates and refugees. Legal encounters can, among other things, be regarded as an encounter involving released offenders and the authorities, inmates and prison officers and multinational companies and their lawyers.


Legal encounters will be studied from an interdisciplinary perspective that makes it possible to illuminate law in practice in the interaction between a legal representative and a citizen.


Law is usually studied using the legal dogmatic method, where court practices are an important factor. Law is also predominantly studied by lawyers, criminologists and legal sociologists in situations where it is “visible”, for example in connection with breaches of law, court rulings and in specific disputes. But what happened before it became visible? Which factors, arguments, discussions and dominant relationships have influenced whether a case emerges and how do social mechanisms affect court rulings? The Legal Encounters-group examines these questions—and in some cases also examines whether this meeting has the effect of crime prevention. The guiding research questions are:


  1. How is law established in interactions between a legal representative and a citizen?
  2. What significance do other structures such as the economy, organisations, gender and ethnicity have for legal encounters?
  3. Which consequences do legal encounters have for individuals, for crime prevention, for the rule of law and for the society at large?

Research methods

The legal encounters takes its starting point in a “mixed method” approach and applies qualitative methods of sociology in particular. The aim is to form an in-depth knowledge and understanding of legal encounters by implementing document analysis and observational studies on the interaction between the legal representative and the citizen and by conducting interviews with the parties involved. Quantitative methods are often applied in studies relating to the effect of crime prevention, e.g. in the form of register-based surveys and questionnaire surveys. In addition, doctrinal methods are used to identify overall structures, legal issues and solutions.


The special research group's activities in the field of knowledge sharing/civic engagement

The Legal Encounters-group affects many different parties — from legal practitioners such as lawyers, police officers, prison officers and social workers to users of the law, including major international companies and the general public and offenders. The group's research therefore has a broad interest in and relevance for society.


This is, among other things, demonstrated by the fact that the members of the group often receive inquiries from journalists in connection with current cases and are sought-after contributors for expert committees.


Finally, the group's researchers often participate as presenters in various contexts, for example at other research and educational institutions, for users and in international contexts.


The special research programme's contribution to teaching


The special research programme Legal Encounters is deeply rooted in the law programmes at SDU. The group is in charge of teaching the subjects for the BSc in Law and the part-time law programme, and is further responsible for interdisciplinary subjects from various programmes at SDU.

A large part of the teaching in this group's subjects is conducted as a combination of synchronous and asynchronous e-learning activities, which help to modernise the programme and support the students’ learning processes.