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Law & The Business Environment - LAW00034I

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  • Department: The York Law School
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Laurence Etherington
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: I
  • Academic year of delivery: 2020-21

Module summary

Students examine two aspects of the business environment within which lawyers commonly undertake legal work:

(a) the commercial world within which many legal professionals provide services; and

(b) the business of legal professionals providing those services.

The main focus of the module is developing understanding of how legal businesses are run. This is explored through a fictional firm of York based solicitors (YorLaw LLP) and examination of the problems faced by that fictional firm. Students act as consultants to the firm, analysing its business so as to develop proposals for a future strategy. Students also attend a Day Trip to a Commercial Law Firm, where they gain further insight into aspects of the commercial world and make ‘pitches’ for investment in business ideas.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Autumn Term 2020-21 to Summer Term 2020-21

Module aims

The module aims, as part of the overall LLB programme, to enable students to develop new and further critical perspectives on law, whilst progressively developing core academic and legal skills.

The specific aims of the Law & the Business Environment module are to develop an understanding of the ‘business’ of delivering legal services through:

  • Exploring the ‘business’ of legal practice;
  • Providing an overview the commercial world within which many legal services are provided;
  • Acquiring knowledge to assist in understanding the needs of individual clients and client organisations and so provide effective legal advice and other services; and
  • Developing knowledge and skills to analyse and research businesses and their environment, so as to develop a strategy for their future development.

Module learning outcomes

  • Explain, apply, discuss and critically evaluate well-established legal and business analysis concepts, principles, theories and perspectives
  • Discuss and critique the development and purpose of law and legal service provision and its interrelationship with society and other disciplines
  • Develop individual opinions and arguments on legal service provision issues and propositions, supported by appropriately critiqued academic and other evidence
  • Apply and evaluate critically problem-solving strategies to develop and propose solutions to academic and practical legal problems
  • Plan, implement and evaluate research methodologies, and strategies, and locate relevant and reliable sources and authorities
  • Communicate the outputs of the above in a variety of written and oral formats and contexts to specialist and non-specialist audiences
  • Demonstrate understanding of norms of scholarly and professional legal practice
  • Reflect on learning and feedback, and use this in identifying future learning interests and needs
  • Use concepts, techniques and information sources to undertake analysis of a legal service provider, develop and evaluate strategic options and prepare a Business Plan for their implementation

Module content

The module is structured in a way that reflects the MLOs, with learning activities grouped around five main themes:

(1) ‘Law Firms’, people and roles

(2) Financial issues and analysis

(3) Organisational and Legal Structures for Businesses

(4) Analysing the Business and its Environment

(5) Strategic Options & Business Planning

Students are provided with Information regarding the hypothetical law firm (YorLaw LLP) at each small group session. Together with research and reading following the session, this forms the basis for discussion of the issues arising for YorLaw (often including client, or ‘internal’, presentations), as well as broader application beyond that firm.

Exploration of these issues, and production of initial ideas for discussion/presentation facilitates the incremental development of analysis and proposals for the Business Plan each student will put together for assessment.


Task Length % of module mark
Business Plan & Reflective Report
N/A 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

Oral feedback on formative Group proposals is provided for use in the development of summative Assessment submissions as individuals.

Feedback is also provided during Small Group activities that provide the foundations for development of Group, and then Individual, proposals.

The summative Assessment and Reassessment has the following Word/Page Limits:

(a) The word limit for the ‘Reflective Report’ is a maximum of 500. 
(b) The ‘Business Plan’ is subject to two limits:
(i) A word limit of a maximum of 5,000; and
(ii) A page limit of 15 ‘Sides’ of A4 paper.
The limit for the Reflective Report is separate, and so that is not included in the 5,000 words/15 page limits


Task Length % of module mark
Business Plan & Reflective Report
N/A 100

Module feedback

Students will receive ongoing feedback from tutors and peers on their developing understanding, use of models and other techniques, as well as other skills, during seminars (including presentations).

Feedback on initial Business Plan proposals will be provided during the final large group session (in term 2) at which Student Small Groups present their Group’s outline proposals.

Students then develop their own Business Plans (which may be informed by those small group proposals, and the feedback received). Short individual discussions of Business Plan ideas are also offered before the end of Term 2 (the individual Assessment Tasks being submitted in Term 3).

Written feedback on the final/summative Assessment Task submissions will be provided.

Indicative reading

C. Stoakes, All You Need to Know About Commercial Awareness (ΧΦΣ, 2019)

S. Mayson, Making Sense of Law Firms: Strategy, Structure & Ownership (Blackstone Press 1997)

S. Mayson, Law Firm Strategy: Competitive Advantage and Valuation (OUP 2007)

Richard Susskind, Tomorrow s Lawyers: An Introduction to Your Future (OUP, 2017).

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): changes to courses

The 2020/21 academic year will start in September. We aim to deliver as much face-to-face teaching as we can, supported by high quality online alternatives where we must.

Find details of the measures we're planning to protect our community.

Course changes for new students