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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Law : Law

Undergraduate Course: Critical Legal Thinking (LAWS08139)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Law CollegeCollege of Humanities and Social Science
Course typeStandard AvailabilityAvailable to all students
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 8 (Year 1 Undergraduate) Credits10
Home subject areaLaw Other subject areaNone
Course website None Taught in Gaelic?No
Course descriptionThis course has three basic, interrelated objectives:
- To teach students the basic building-blocks of legal reasoning, from the basic conceptual apparatus necessary to precisely express legal positions, through the identification and elaboration of valid and sound arguments, to an understanding of the distinctive features of legal reasoning and the ways in which logic and rhetoric intertwine in legal discourse.
- To further hone and develop the skills in critical thinking introduced during the Scottish Legal System course, providing students with both the capacity and the confidence to approach complex texts and claims from a critical/analytical perspective. This will include, inter alia, classes on different critical methods, and the construction of persuasive arguments;
- To function as a bridge between Scottish Legal System in 1st year and Jurisprudence in 2nd, providing some important theoretical background and context to the technical issues and debates raised in the former, whilst introducing students to a range of the themes that they will go on to study in greater depth in the latter during the first semester of their 2nd year.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Additional Costs None
Information for Visiting Students
Displayed in Visiting Students Prospectus?No
Course Delivery Information
Delivery period: 2013/14 Semester 2, Available to all students (SV1) Learn enabled:  No Quota:  275
Web Timetable Web Timetable
Class Delivery Information First lecture is on Monday 13 January 2014 at 10am in LT 5 Appleton Tower. The course runs twice weekly (Wednesday same details).
Course Start Date 13/01/2014
Breakdown of Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 100 ( Lecture Hours 22, Seminar/Tutorial Hours 6, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 2, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 70 )
Additional Notes
Breakdown of Assessment Methods (Further Info) Written Exam 70 %, Coursework 30 %, Practical Exam 0 %
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
1. Knowledge and Sources of Law:
Having completed this course, students should be able to demonstrate a basic grasp of:
- The analysis of legal concepts, including Hohfeld¿s scheme of fundamental legal positions, its uses and its critics.
- The key elements of argumentation: how to identify an argument; how to separate premises and conclusions; the notions of validity and soundness; and how to critically evaluate any argument.
- The nature of legal authority, and the importance of issues of indeterminacy and interpretation in legal argument, and what types of justification are appropriate in addressing these issues.
- The role that different rhetorical strategies can play in rendering legal argument more persuasive, in both licit and illicit ways.
- The importance of narrative in the construction of the factual premises of legal arguments, and the ways in which this can affect the law.
2. Subject-specific Skills:
Having completed this course, students should be able to demonstrate a basic ability to:
- use sources that are up-to-date from paper and electronic repositories.
- use sources (primary and secondary) that are appropriate to the context.
- use recognised methods of citation and reference.
- use sources that are current at the point of assessment.
- use sources to support arguments and conclusions.
- identify accurately the issue(s) which require response and formulate them clearly.
- Analyse, evaluate and interpret primary and secondary legal sources relevant to the topic studied.
- View critically existing legal rules.
3. General Transferable Intellectual Skills:
Having completed this course, students should be able to demonstrate a basic ability to:
- Recognise, analyse and rank arguments and evidence in terms of relevance
and importance by:
- managing volume of legal sources and select key material to construct written or oral answers to a problem.
- identifying the legal problem from information provided.
- addressing problems by reference to relevant material.
- bringing together and integrating information and materials from a variety of different sources.
- acknowledging ranking of sources and relative impact in context.
- application of the law and problem-solving in a legal context.
- presenting arguments for and against propositions.
- Be aware that arguments require to be supported by evidence, in order to meet legal requirements of proof by showing awareness of the need for evidence to support arguments
- Apply knowledge and analysis in a legal context creatively to complex situations in order to provide arguable solutions to concrete problems by presenting a range of viable options from a set of facts and law.
- Think critically and make critical judgments on the relative and absolute merits of particular arguments and solutions
- Act independently in planning and undertaking tasks in areas of law which he or she has already studied
4. Key Personal Skills:
Having completed this course, students should be able to demonstrate a basic ability to:
- Act independently in planning and undertaking tasks in areas of law which they are studying or have already studied.
- Reflect on their own learning, and seek and make use of feedback.
- Work collaboratively in groups to test, modify and strengthen his or her individual views, and contributing and capitalising on the different experiences, skills and thinking of each group member.
- Think critically about law and its place in society.
- Communicate both orally and in writing (and, where appropriate, by the use of electronic means) using the English language accurately by:
- creating work in a permanent format which is understandable by the intended audience
- create documents which are analytical, descriptive and inquisitive.
- Use language proficiently in relation to legal matters by:
- using appropriate legal terminology in all work.
- using recognised methods of citation and reference.
- Communicate information (including discussing technical and complex legal materials), ideas, advice and choices in an effective manner appropriate to the context, individually or with others by:
- listening and questioning effectively.
- giving and receiving feedback and responding effectively to others.
- ensuring that all communications (either face-to-face or in permanent form) are succinct without losing focus on key issues or information.
- communicating in plain English, with legal terminology only as needed.
- contributing effectively to group work.
- Demonstrate an ability to organise and prioritise effectively the expenditure of his or her time and effort in the performance of all aspects of student work.
- Where relevant and as the basis for an argument, present and evaluate information provided in numerical or statistical form.
- Produce and present in an appropriate form a word-processed essay or other appropriate format.
- Conduct efficient searches of websites to locate relevant information; and exchange documents by E-mail.
5. Subject-specific Legal and Ethical Values:
Having completed this course, students should be able to demonstrate a basic ability to:
- Identify, construct, and reconstruct valid and sound legal arguments.
- Separate elements of discourse that are doing legitimate argumentative work from those that are seeking to persuade in non-legal ways.
- Understand the ways in which ethics can and should form part of legal argumentation, and the appropriate roles of appeals to logos, ethos and pathos therein.
- Display informed knowledge and understanding of the social, economic, moral and ethical contexts in which law operates by demonstrating legal knowledge in association with related policy, underlying social conditions, professional ethical issues and moral issues.
- Display critical thinking about laws and their place in society by:
- Communicating legal knowledge which addresses the context of its formation or operations.
- Showing awareness of the ethics and standards applying to the legal profession in Scotland
Assessment Information
1. Critical evaluation exercise (30%): students will be asked to write a short paper (max. 1000 words) in which they are asked to identify, reconstruct and engage critically with the argument of a single short text.
2. Take-home examination (70%): students will be given a range of questions testing skills taught in each unit of the course, and will have 48 hours to respond to these.
Special Arrangements
Additional Information
Academic description Not entered
Syllabus Indicative teaching programme
The 22 lectures will cover the following topics:
- The analysis of legal concepts
- The analysis and reconstruction of arguments
- The nature of legal authority, and the issues this raises
- The specifically ¿legal¿ forms of reasoning and justification
- The role of rhetoric and narrative in legal argumentation

This course will be heavily skills-focused. The relevant skills will be demonstrated in the course of the lectures, and then students will have the opportunity to practice skills for each unit in a dedicated tutorial.

Transferable skills Not entered
Reading list Not entered
Study Abroad Not entered
Study Pattern Not entered
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Euan Macdonald
Tel: (0131 6)50 9832
Course secretaryMrs Heather Haig
Tel: (0131 6)50 2053
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