Dr Leanne Smith
Leanne Smith is a family law researcher with particular interests in parenting disputes, access to family justice and effective family dispute resolution. She has participated in and led empirical studies on litigants in person in the family courts, Shared Parenting Information Programmes (‘SPIPs’) and the use of lay advisors (‘McKenzie Friends’) as substitutes for professional legal advice and representation in family cases.
Leanne’s current work focuses on building an evidence-base for the use of different resources to improve understanding of family justice and support family dispute resolution. She is exploring how people use peer support in online communities to help them navigate family disputes, as well as the mechanisms through which information and advice about solving family disputes can be made useful and accessible. In connection with this work, she is leading the development of the new Family Law Assistance and Self-Help (FLASH) pro bono scheme. FLASH, which is based on an innovative, research-informed model of interactive workshops, has been designed in collaboration with colleagues from Cardiff University and will be piloted in 2020.
The later strands of Leanne’s work are in part influenced by her strong interest in designing effective learning activities. In her teaching this manifests in diverse learning activities and authentic assessment briefs. Her students are exposed to diverse ways of acquiring and communicating knowledge and encouraged to consider how law is understood and experienced by different audiences. Leanne has been shortlisted for the prestigious Oxford University Press Law Teacher of the Year award and also won Cardiff University’s ‘Most Effective Teacher’ award in 2014.
Leanne is a founding member of the interdisciplinary Network on Family, Regulation and Society, which has brought together top international and UK researchers to debate research questions critical to the future of family law and policy. She is a member of the advisory board of the Journal of Law and Society and has served on the editorial board of that journal and of the Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law. Before leaving Wales to take up her post at Exeter Law School in 2019, Leanne also served for many years as a trustee for Family Mediation Cymru.