Doing Contract Theory in First Year Law School: The Iceberg Method

(2007) Canadian Legal Education Annual Review 1

36 Pages Posted: 10 Jul 2012

See all articles by Richard Devlin

Richard Devlin

Dalhousie University - Schulich School of Law

Anthony J. Duggan

University of Toronto - Faculty of Law

Louise Langevin

Laval University

Date Written: 2007

Abstract

There are various ways of Introducing first year law students to legal theory. One is to offer a discrete legal theory course. This is a "bottom-up" approach in the sense that typically discussion of a given theory in the abstract precedes application of the theory to particular legal problems. An alternative is to teach theory as part and parcel of one or more of the standard first year courses. This is a "top-down " approach in the sense that identification of the legal problem precedes the introduction of potential theoretical solutions. The top-down approach can be visualized as an iceberg, with particular legal rules at the peak and the policy preferences which shape the rules submerged below. In this paper, we explore a variation of the top-down or iceberg approach in which the aim is to introduce students to a range of theoretical perspectives by comparing and contrasting the application of competing legal theories to a particular legal problem. For the purposes of illustration, we have chosen the spousal guarantee cases in Contract Law as our reference point and critical legal studies, law and economics and feminist theory as our perspectives. There are numerous other cases, not just in Contracts, but in Torts, Property and Criminal Law as well, that might be amenable to similar treatment. Likewise, needless to say, there are other theories, apart from the ones we use here, that teachers might prefer; the teaching method we propose does not depend on the particular perspectives we happen to have chosen

Keywords: legal theory, education, first year, Contract Law, iceberg method

Suggested Citation

Devlin, Richard and Duggan, Anthony James and Langevin, Louise, Doing Contract Theory in First Year Law School: The Iceberg Method (2007). (2007) Canadian Legal Education Annual Review 1, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2103291

Richard Devlin (Contact Author)

Dalhousie University - Schulich School of Law ( email )

6061 University Avenue
6061 University Ave
Halifax, Nova Scotia B3H 4H9
Canada

Anthony James Duggan

University of Toronto - Faculty of Law ( email )

78 and 84 Queen's Park
Toronto, Ontario M5S 2C5
Canada

Louise Langevin

Laval University ( email )

1030, avenue des Sciences humaines
Faculté de droit, bureau 1115
Quebec, Quebec G1V 0A6
Canada
418-656-2131, x. 5947 (Phone)

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