Thoughts From UVic Law Students

For the past two years I’ve taught Advanced Legal Research and Writing to upper year law students, and I’ve just begun a third session.

This is a small seminar course and the students are primarily final-year students. My day-one poll of the students generally suggests some feel uncertainty about their legal research and writing skills as they prepare to enter the profession, and they take the course almost as “remedial legal research and writing,” to borrow the words of a colleague.

To meet stated student learning needs, we generally focus in depth on the skills of researching case law and legislation and of legal memo writing, as applied to the research question each student selects. The class repeats, at a bit slower pace and more intensively, the hands-on work of legislative history tracing and updating. Based on students’ expression of interest and relevance to their research topics, I also select various non-BC provincial and non-Canadian legal research strategies and sources. To address their writing needs, we spend some time on legal writing and engage in hands-on self- and peer-editing of draft excerpts from their research memos. Finally, as I wrote some time ago , we cover alternative sources of legal and factual research.

The corollary and companion to this last point is practice in alternative venues and styles of legal writing. On this last point, the students post a piece to our class blog, either a reflective piece or a substantive piece topical to the issues they’re researching. Each students also posts a few non-anonymous and non-pseudonymous comments, toward a goal of constructive class dialogue.

With the support of our kind and generous founding publisher and our current exquisite and all-powerful administrator, I’m able to share several pieces here over this Law Student Week. Each of the Law Student Week posts is authored by the respective student and reposted with his or her permission. The week features a mix of reflective pieces on the nature of legal research and writing and the teaching and learning of the same in legal education, and substantive posts students wrote about their major memo legal research. Stay tuned.

 

Comments

  1. Hi Kim, this sounds interesting and a good course. Do you by any chance set students the task of tracing a legal principle or idea back through the case law to its roots. Often this will be lost in the early English common law. This will mean using English cases too, of course – hence my interest! (Some ideas will come from civil or Roman law, of course – no less interesting.)

  2. Hi Paul,

    Thanks for your comment. That the course be good and interesting is the goal, anyway. Our new session just began last week, so my fingers are crossed.

    Yours is a great idea and in fact might be a part of an individual student’s major research memorandum work. The question is well-timed, as we just distributed and discussed this term assignment today and this may be a part of the work required.

    Each student selects a legal issue, hypothetical or otherwise, to research, and then finalizes the formulation of the issue and any factual matrix in consultation with me. Depending on the legal question chosen, the student may need to do just what you describe.

    We also will conduct practice research exercises and a graded case law and legislation research evaluation. These will require the students to trace some historical legal developments. For fear of spoilers for this year’s students, I won’t say much more about that. :)

  3. Part of the reason for my interest is that we at ICLR are looking at incorporating the English Reports collection of Nominate Reports into our online platform, alongside our authorised/official reports since 1865, and I’m interested to know to what extent that would be welcomed by users. They are available elsewhere, but not always in the most convenient searchable format. (This is something we’ll be talking to delegates about at CALL this year, incidentally.)

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