Using Classroom Demonstrations in Familiar Nonlegal Contexts to Teach Unfamiliar Concepts of Legal Method to New Students
Charles R. Calleros
Arizona State University (ASU) - Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law
Legal Writing, Vol. 7, p. 37, 2001
In their first semester of law school, students are quickly immersed in a sea of appellate opinions, punctuated with scattered islands of statutory text. With guidance from their classroom instructors, and especially from their instructor in legal method and writing, they begin to see patterns emerging from the judicial opinions, and they eventually begin constructing a working knowledge of the elements of legal method and analysis. Students eventually come to realize that their assimilation of the current landscape of settled legal rules is secondary to their mastery of legal method. To help students understand their academic task, we can try to build on their schemata, their existing foundations of knowledge. By relating a new concept to a student's existing intellectual foundation, we can help the student to assimilate the new concept more quickly.
This essay gives two examples of classroom demonstrations designed to introduce first-semester law students to concepts of legal method that tend to cause difficulty for some of them if expressed only in abstract terms. These demonstrations illustrate: (1) the inherent uncertainty or indeterminacy in most legal questions, particularly in the problems that we are likely to assign as vehicles for developing skills of analysis and advocacy; and (2) the process of deriving a larger legal picture from a series of cases by synthesizing the cases, each of which may build on previous ones in the process of incremental judicial decision-making.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 26
Keywords: legal education, legal writing, legal method
Date posted: August 31, 2009
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