This course aims at equipping students with advanced legal writing and reasoning skills for the real-world demands placed upon practicing lawyers. The course will be conducted through a two-pronged approach: (1) promoting further broad-based legal writing skills; (2) providing in-depth instructions on legal methods, legal reasoning, and the legal process. The course teaches students to analyze statutes and court cases. Students will then apply the law by assessing the merits of a hypothetical case in letter writing. Class sessions focus on, for example, identification and articulation of legal issues, rule synthesis, use of precedent to make predictions about case outcomes, organization of a written analysis, unity and coherence of legal arguments, precise and concise writing style, consistency of tone, and awareness of the audience. The course also includes assignments and lessons on professionalism, oral advocacy and client counseling.
At the end of the course students should be able to:
Topic I: Understanding the Law
It is essential that students understand legal method through the main sources of law such as primary legislation and case law. In addition, we will look at the institutions responsible for shaping the law such as Parliament and the Courts. In the first year of their studies students have not received any legal training in relation to the process of law-making in the English legal system. The English legal system is unique in its kind. It is different from the Continental legal system as its’ principles have derived from the common law (case law) through the doctrine of precedents. Without such an understanding students will not be able to practice their writing skills.
Topic II: Legal Reasoning
This topic will examine reasoning techniques that go beyond the mere criteria considered by logic. Students will learn and understand what ‘practising law’ means and involves by the employment of practical reasoning. We will look at inductive and deductive reasoning within the legal context; consider empirical reasoning and how it is used in solving problems which take students’ one step further from merely reading the law and applying it to the issue in question.
The course will cover the effects of legal dogmatics, i.e the application of the law: be that existing or new legal norm coming into force. We will examine how judges take their decisions through applying the law. In new legal norms there is room for application possibilities whereas in existing legal norms the field of possibilities narrow and only one possibility is left as valid application of the law. In addition, we will consider how changes in society influence legal norms.
Topic III: Legal writing style
Writing legal English is an important skill that students must learn for their law careers. When both parties go to court their claim is based on the same law and facts, however, only one party wins. This phenomenon is explained by how the parties use legal argumentation skills and how best they express their arguments in legal writing. It is essential that students gain knowledge of the basic components of legal writing such as: grammar and punctuation, legal writing styles, and what to avoid in legal writing such as legal jargon and so on. Students will practice their legal writing skills by writing a letter to their client advising him/her regarding a particular legal problem.
The first session will cover the basic components of legal writing as mentioned above. Students will then be given samples of client letters which will be the basis of their assignment. In the second session, students will be given a particular issue as well as the law applicable to those facts. It is then for the student to write a letter to the client advising him/her.
Topic III: Legal Writing Style
Note: Take home assignment. The writing assignment will include a problem solving on the legal issues and possible solutions.
Topic IV: Interviewing and Advising
Good oral communication skills are essential for lawyers be that in advising clients, communicating with colleagues, judges and so on. To some students this comes naturally, but to some others it can be improved by learning this skill and then practising it. First impressions are very important, that is why lawyers must establish good rapports with their clients on the first interview. In addition, lawyers must obtain as much relevant information as possible from the client to research and advise him/her properly. Interviewing and Advising involves the ability to demonstrate good hearing and understanding skills, passive and active listening, the use of non-verbal communication such as eye contact, posture and gestures. Students will actively practice this skill in class by interviewing one another through role-playing; actively learning the principal skills of listening, questioning, analysing and explaining. The assignment will engage students in role – playing whereby the instructor will be the client and the student will be the lawyer.
Topic IV: Interviewing and Advising
Students will actively practice this skill in class by interviewing one another and actively learning the principal skills of listening, questioning, analysing and explaining. This class will prepare students for their interviewing and advising assessment.
Interviewing assignment (to be arranged during class sessions)
Topic V: Negotiation
Lawyers spend much of their time negotiating be that with their clients, colleagues and any parties involved in a dispute resolution. This skill can be acquired by practice and observation. Students will actively practice this skill in class by resolving an issue arisen between the parties. Their aim is to achieve an acceptable solution by both parties. Students will work on an issue given by the instructor based on real life situations; they must negotiate with the other parties’ lawyer by reaching a consensus so that the case does not reach the courts. Students will learn to consider the ethical aspects of negotiation so they do not give false information to the other side.
Class participation is essential and mandatory. As this course will equip students with legal writing techniques substantive classroom time will be devoted to learning writing skills through the use of case studies, role playing, group discussions and so on.
There will be one midterm examination, a take home written assignment, and an interviewing and advising assignment. If the student misses the deadline s/he is considered to have failed that particular assignment.
|Methods of Assessment||Please identify the LAST item of assessment that a student sits with a tick||Grading Mode||Weighting %||Minimum Pass Mark||Word Length||Outline Details|
|Class participation||10||Attendance, participation and preparation (10 %)
Covering Learning Outcomes
|Midterm exam||30||50%||Covering Learning Outcomes
|Legal writing coursework
|50||50%||Covering Learning Outcomes
|Interviewing and Advising||Ö||10||50%||Covering Learning Outcomes
|Is the student required to pass ALL elements of assessment in order to pass the course?||No|
Learning and Teaching Activities:
Lectures will be presented through power point presentations, group discussions, role playing and so on.
Main Text books:
Anthony Bradney, How to study law, 6th edition, Sweet & Maxwell, 2010
Bobby Vanstone, Understanding law (skills and sources for students), Longman publishers, 1998 ISBN 0-582-31720-7
Dave Powell & Emma Teare, Writing for law, Palgrave Macmillan publishers, 2010, ISBN 978-0-230-23644-8.
James Holland, and Julian Webb, Learning Legal Rules; A Student’s Guide to Legal Method and Reasoning, 6th Edition, 2006.
Lisa Cherkassky et al, Legal Skills, 1st edition, Palgrave Macmillan, 2011
S.I. Strong, How to write law essays and exams, 3rd edn, Oxford University Press 2010, ISBN 978-0-19-953357-2