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School of Law

Professor Richard Nobles, LLB (Hons) (Warwick) LLM (Yale), Solicitor


Emeritus Professor of Law

Telephone: +44 (0)20 7882 3960
Room Number: Room 319, Laws Building, Mile End


Professor Nobles joined Queen Mary in September 2006 as a Professor in Law, having previously worked at LSE where he was a Reader. After obtaining an LLB from Warwick in 1976 he first worked in a law centre, and subsequently qualified as a commercial solicitor with a leading London law firm. In 1980 he completed an LLM at Yale, and then taught law at Osgoode Hall Law School, Toronto Canada. He returned to the UK in 1981 to take up a position at the LSE teaching Jurisprudence and Trusts. His first research interest was Pension law, writing articles on social investment, trade union trusteeship, and the ownership of pension fund surpluses. He produced one of the first academic monographs on Pension Law: Pensions, Employment and the Law (OUP 1992). He worked as a consultant for the Office of the Pension Ombudsman from 1993-6, advising on disputes arising from pension fund surpluses. In 1997 he was seconded for six months to the Office of the Pensions Ombudsman. This experience led to his publishing a number of articles on the relationship between Ombudsmen and the Courts. In 1998 he began researching into the nature of miscarriages of justice leading to the publication in 2000 of Nobles & Schiff, Understanding Miscarriages of Justice: the Law, Media and the Inevitability of Crisis (OUP). Whilst he has continued to research and publish on the subject of miscarriages his current focus is on the application of Systems theory to Law. He is the author (with David Schiff) of A Sociology of Jurisprudence (Hart 2006), and one of the four editors of the English Translation of Niklas Luhmann’s Law as a Social System (OUP 2004). His latest book (with David Schiff) Observing Law through Systems Theory (Hart) was published in 2013.

Professor Nobles teaches on the undergraduate Jurisprudence course, and the postgraduate Research Theory and Methodology Course.


System Theory as applied to Law; Criminal Appeals, Miscarriages of Justice (former research interest Pensions Law).


Publications since 2000

  • (with D Schiff) ‘Sociology of the Legal System’ in Pribán (ed), Research Handbook on the Sociology of Law (Edward Elgar, 2021) ch 12
  • (with D Schiff) ‘The Supervision of Guilty Pleas by the Court of Appeal of England and Wales - Workable Relationships and Tragic Choices’ (2020) 31/4 Criminal Law Forum 513
  • (with D Schiff) ‘Neo-Systems Theory and Jurisprudence’ in M. Sellers, S. Kirste (eds), Encyclopedia of the Philosophy of Law and Social Philosophy (Springer, 2020) DOI:
  • (with D Schiff) ‘Taking the Complexity of Complex Systems Seriously’, Review Article of Jamie Murray, Thomas E. Webb, Steven Wheatley (eds), Complexity Theory and Law: Mapping an Emergent Jurisprudence, (2020) 83/3 Modern Law Review 661
  • (with D Schiff) ‘Criminal Justice Unhinged: The Challenge of Guilty Pleas’ (2019) 39/1 Oxford Journal of Legal Studies, 100
  • (with D Schiff) ‘Trials and Miscarriages: An Evolutionary Socio-Historical Analysis’ (2018) 29/2 Criminal Law Forum 167
  • (with D Schiff) ‘Observing Sovereignty, Law and Politics at the Global Level’ – Review Article of Jiri Pribán, Sovereignty in Post-Sovereign Society: A Systems Theory of European Constitutionalism (2017) 26/3 Social & Legal Studies 401
  • (with D Schiff) ‘Taking the Evolution of Legal Doctrine Seriously’, Review Article of Katayoun Baghai, Social Systems Theory and Judicial Review (2017) 13/1 International Journal of Law in Context 96
  • (with D Schiff) ‘Legal Argumentation: A Sociological Account’ (2017) 8/1 Jurisprudence: An International Journal of Legal and Political Thought 52
  • (with D Schiff) ‘Civil Disobedience and Constituent Power’ (2015) 11/4 International Journal of Law in Context 462
  • (with D Schiff (eds)), Law, Society and Community: Socio-Legal Essays in Honour of Roger Cotterrell (Ashgate, 2014)
  • (with D Schiff) ‘Introduction’ in R Nobles and D Schiff (eds), Law, Society and Community: Socio-Legal Essays in Honour of Roger Cotterrell (Ashgate, 2014) 1-19
  • (with D Schiff) ‘The Sociology of the Politics of Jurisprudence’ in R Nobles and D Schiff (eds), Law, Society and Community: Socio-Legal Essays in Honour of Roger Cotterrell (Ashgate, 2014) ch 13
  • (with D Schiff) ‘Luhmann: Law, Justice, and Time’ (2014) 27/2 International Journal for the Semiotics of Law 325
  • (with D Schiff) 'Pulling Back from the Edge' - Review Article of Gunther Teubner, Constitutional Fragments: Societal Constitutionalism and Globalization, (2013) 76/3 Modern Law Review 620
  • (with D Schiff) ‘Legal Pluralism: A Systems Theory Approach to Language, Translation, and Communication’ in M Freeman and F Smith (eds), Law and Language (Oxford University Press, 2013) ch 7
  • (with D Schiff) ‘Structural coupling between the systems of law and the media: the contrasting examples of criminal conviction and criminal appeal’ in A Febbrajo and G Harste (eds), Law and Intersystemic Communication (Ashgate, 2013) ch 13
  • (with D Schiff) Observing Law through Systems Theory (Hart Publishing, 2013)
  • (with D Schiff) ‘Using Systems Theory to Study Legal Pluralism: What Could Be Gained?’ (2012) 46/2 Law & Society Review 265
  • Review of Chris Thornhill, A Sociology of Constitutions: Constitutions and State Legitimacy in Historical-Sociological Perspective (2012) 75 Modern Law Review 290
  • (with D Schiff) ‘Why do judges talk the way they do?’ (2010) The Romanian Judges Forum Review 41
  • (with D Schiff) ‘Disobedience to Law - Debbie Purdy's Case’ (2010) 73/2 Modern Law Review 295
  • (with D Schiff) ‘Public confidence in criminal justice: the lessons from miscarriages of justice’ (2009) 48/5 Howard Journal of Criminal Justice 461
  • (with D Schiff), 'After Ten Years: An Investment in Justice?' in M. Naughton (ed) The Criminal Cases Review Commission: Hope for the Innocent? (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009) ch 11
  • (with D Schiff) ‘Why do judges talk the way they do?’ (2009) 5/1 International Journal of Law in Context 25
  • (with D Schiff), ‘Jurisprudence as Self-Description: Natural Law and Positivism within the English Legal System’ in G-P Calliess, A Fischer-Lescano, D Wielsch and P Zumbansen (eds) Soziologische Jurisprudenz: Festschrift fur Gunther Teubner (De Gruyter Recht, 2009), 359-374
  • ‘Economic Analysis of Law’ 355, (and with D Schiff), ‘Criminal Cases Review Commission’ 268, ‘Miscarriages of Justice’ 796, ‘Systems Theory’ 1149, in P Cane and J Conaghan (eds) The New Oxford Companion to Law (Oxford University Press, 2008)
  • (with D Schiff) ‘Absurd Asymmetry - a Comment on R v Cottrell and Fletcher and BM, KK and DP (Petitioners) v Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission’ (2008) 71/3 Modern Law Review 464
  • (with D Schiff) Review of O Perez and G Teubner (eds), Paradoxes and Inconsistencies in the Law, (2007) 70Modern Law Review 505
  • (with D Schiff) ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’, Review Article of Ronald Dworkin, Justice in Robes, (2007) 70/3 Modern Law Review 139
  • (with D Schiff) ‘Theorising the Criminal Trial and Criminal Appeal: Finality, Truth and Rights’ in A Duff, L Farmer, S Marshall and V Tadros (eds), The Trial on Trial, Volume 2 (Hart Publishing, 2006) ch 14
  • (with D Schiff) ‘Communicating Moral Responsibility through Criminal Law’, Review of V Tadros, Criminal Responsibility, (2006) 26/1 Oxford Journal of Legal Studies 207 
  • (with D Schiff) A Sociology of Jurisprudence (Hart Publishing, 2006)
  • (with D Schiff) ‘A Sociology of Jurisprudence’ in M Freeman (ed), Law and Sociology (Oxford University Press, 2006) ch 3
  • (with D Schiff) ‘Guilt and Innocence in the Criminal Justice System: A Comment on R (Mullen) v Secretary of State for the Home Department’ (2006) 69/1 The Modern Law Review 80
  • (with D Schiff) ‘A reply to Graham Zellick’ [2005] Criminal Law Review 951
  • (with D Schiff) ‘Misleading Statistics within Criminal Trials’ (2005) 2 Significance 17
  • (with D Schiff) ‘The Criminal Cases Review Commission: Establishing a Workable Relationship with the Court of Appeal’ [2005] Criminal Law Review 173
  • (with D Schiff) ‘A Story of Miscarriage: Law in the Media’ (2004) 31/2 Journal of Law and Society 221
  • (with D Schiff) ‘Introduction’ to the English translation of N Luhmann, Law as a Social System (edited by F Kastner, R Nobles, D Schiff and R Ziegert) (Oxford University Press, 2004)
  • (with J Penner and D Schiff (eds)), Introduction to Jurisprudence and Legal Theory: Commentary and Materials (Butterworths, 2002, now published by Oxford University Press)
  • (with D Schiff) ‘The Right to Appeal and Workable Systems of Justice’ (2002) 65 Modern Law Review 676
  • ‘Access to Justice through Ombudsmen: The Courts’ Response to the Pensions Ombudsman’ (2002) Civil Justice Quarterly 94
  • ‘Keeping Ombudsmen in their Place - The Courts and the Pensions Ombudsman’ [2001] Public Law 308
  • (with D Schiff) ‘Criminal Justice: Autopoietic Insights’ in J Pribán and D.Nelken (eds) Law's New Boundaries: The Consequences of Legal Autopoiesis (Ashgate, 2001) ch 9
  • (with D Schiff) ‘Due process and Dirty Harry Dilemmas: Criminal Appeals and the Human Rights Act’ (2001) 64 Modern Law Review 911
  • (with D Schiff) ‘The Criminal Cases Review Commission: Reporting Success?’ (2001) 64/2 Modern Law Review, 280
  • (with D Schiff) Understanding Miscarriages of Justice: Law, the Media, and the Inevitability of Crisis (Oxford University Press, 2000)


In 2012 he is supervising two Phd students who are using Systems theory to investigate issues in international law and the Law surrounding discrimination, and a further student who is analysing the use of statistical methods within the Criminal Justice system.

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