Integrating Academic Skills into First Year Curricula: Using Wood V. Lucy, Lady Duff-Gordon to Teach the Role of Facts in Legal Reasoning
CUNY School of Law
CUNY School of Law
Pace Law Review, Vol. 28, 2010
Law professors of first year students often lament the quality of the work their students produce on essay exams, which are plagued with missed issues, incomplete or inaccurate rules, poor use of facts, and a misunderstanding of basic legal concepts and structures. This Article attributes this disconnect to the critical failing of legal education - the tendency of first-year law courses to focus exclusively on teaching doctrine at the expense of legal skills and reasoning. This Article discusses the need to reorient students’ thinking about learning the law, highlighting the critical importance of explicitly teaching academic skills across the doctrinal curriculum, rather than solely in skills-oriented classes. Developing a foundation of academic skills in the first year will prepare students to focus on the denser doctrines and inclusion of more practice-oriented skills required in their second and third years.
There are myriad ways in which real legal methods objectives can be directly incorporated into a traditional first-year syllabus. The Article demonstrates how the popular contracts case Wood v. Lucy, Lady Duff-Gordon can be used as a vehicle to explicitly teach the skills of fact identification and fact analysis in legal reasoning. This case deals with the amorphous and highly fact-sensitive doctrines of good faith and best efforts and is especially good for teaching fact analysis because of the subtle, but artful, use of facts by Judge Benjamin Cardozo.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 21
Keywords: Academic Skills, Contract Law, Fact Analysis, Teaching Skills, Legal DoctrineAccepted Paper Series
Date posted: October 20, 2010
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