Reframing justice – let’s talk differently about law and justice
There are two conflicting stories currently being told about law and justice in England and Wales.
Which story – which way of seeing the world – dominates and shapes the public narrative and political priorities in the years to come, will depend on how well the story is framed.
Solicitors are a cornerstone of the justice system and upholding the rule of law. The Law Society amplifies the powerful collective voice of more than 200,000 solicitors. We know it’s important to our members that access to justice and the rule of law are protected.
One of the key pillars of our work is to make sure the law applies to everyone equally. For this, we need a justice system that is accessible to all, well-resourced and truly independent.
But right now, both the rule of law and access to justice are under attack.
To meet this challenge, we are taking a new, ambitious and long-term approach to change the story we tell.
The ideas we share – and how we share them – shape how our actions, our clients and how our profession is seen and understood.
This is why we have partnered with FrameWorks UK, a not-for-profit research organisation that specialises in communicating about social issues in ways that create change, on our Reframing Justice programme.
To build public support and political will for change, we need a long-term shift in how the public and decision-makers feel, think and talk about access to justice and the rule of law.
Research from this programme will:
- form an evidence-base of what works to shift public thinking and build support for change
- share practical recommendations, tools and advice on how to communicate around law and justice
- shape a long-term strategic communications approach to help the field of law and justice in our shared mission to uphold the rule of law and protect the justice system
“Framing is the choices we make about what ideas we share and how we share them,” explains Tamsyn Hyatt, director of evidence at FrameWorks UK – our research partner.
“It’s what we emphasise, how we explain an issue, and what we leave unsaid.
“These choices affect how people think, feel and act.”
At FrameWorks UK, reframing:
- is based on rigorous research
- is led by experts in communications, cognitive anthropology, psychology and linguistics
- works through consistent, disciplined and repeated use of new ‘frames’ over time
In the last 10 years, many sectors have used reframing to build support for their campaigns and policy influencing on, such as:
- housing and homelessness
- adult social care
- children in care
- climate justice
Phase 1: how do people think about the rule of law and access to justice?
In our research, we found key gaps between what experts in the fields of law and justice understand by the ‘rule of law’ and ‘access to justice’, and what the public hear and understand. For example:
Across 2023, Frameworks UK carried out interviews with experts, reviewed academic and grey literature as well as the communication materials of organisations across the wider justice and legal fields to distil what experts in the field have been trying to convey about the rule of law and access to justice:
- why they matter
- how they work, and
- how we can better uphold and protect them
Download the research findings:
- Core ideas from the field of law and justice (PDF 178 KB)
- Field frame analysis: How are advocates talking about the rule of law and access to justice (PDF 247 KB)
Alongside this, Frameworks UK carried out in-depth interviews, surveyed a representative sample of voters in England and Wales, and reviewed media coverage to identify common mindsets about the rule of law and access to justice.
Mindsets are more than people’s surface attitudes or opinions. They are deep, assumed patterns of thinking that shape how we see the world and how we act within it.
Understanding mindsets means we can understand how people think – and what understanding we still need to build.
Next steps: phase 2
We are now developing and testing new ways to communicate about the rule of law and justice so we can bridge these gaps and create a shared understanding between experts and the public to drive demand for change.
We'll share the outcomes of this research in autumn 2024 and develop new communications tools that the wider field and our members can use.
Shifting mindsets will take time and work, but we hope this approach will let us build public support for improving access to justice and upholding the rule of law in years to come.