Critical and Legal Reasoning - LAWS6400

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Module delivery information

This module is not currently running in 2024 to 2025.


Is there anything distinctive about legal reasoning? This question is posed from the perspective of a potential legal practitioner, in particular, an advocate. With that question in mind, the aim of the module is to equip students – as potential advocates, but also in general – with a range of transferrable reasoning skills. In short, seeks to teach transferrable critical thinking skills within a legal context.

It is a premise of the module that any competent lawyer, must be able to demonstrate a proficient grounding in reasoning. The module introduces students to different forms of inferential reasoning. It explores the role and limits of inference in legal reasoning and more generally. It considers both logical and psychological factors that may lead to flawed reasoning. The module also touches on various forms of argument of relevance to law including practical, statistical, policy-based argument as well as rhetoric.

The aim of argument, including legal reasoning is to persuade. The module will therefore introduce students to the skills of legal persuasion via written and oral advocacy. The theoretical background will provide the basis upon which students will learn, in particular, to understand and construct effective (legal) arguments and to practice the skills learned in a variety of contexts including the drafting of skeleton arguments and in mooting.


Contact hours

Total Study Hours: 150
Total Contact Hours: 20
Private Study Hours: 130


All undergraduate law programmes – optional module

Method of assessment

Main assessment methods

The module will be assessed by 100% coursework, consisting of a combination of:
a) A skeleton argument of 1500 words (40%), AND
b) A 15-minute oral presentation (a Moot) (60%) including a revised skeleton argument of 500 words. 20% of the oral presentation mark (i.e. 12% of the final overall mark) will be made up of the reworked skeleton argument.

Reassessment methods
Reassessment instrument: 100% coursework

Indicative reading

Cottrell, Stella, Critical Thinking Skills (3rd edn, Palgrave, 2017)
Chatfield, Tom, Critical Thinking (SAGE, 2017)
Farnsworth, Ward, The Legal Analyst: A Toolkit for Thinking about the Law (University of Chicago Press, 2007)
Hanson, Sharon, Learning Legal Skills and Reasoning (4th edn, Routledge, 2016)
Kahneman, Daniel, Thinking, Fast and Slow (Penguin, 2011)
Schauer, Frederick, Thinking Like a Lawyer: a new introduction to Legal Reasoning (Harvard, 2012)

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

The intended subject specific learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:
1. Demonstrate a coherent understanding of what is meant by critical thinking, its associated skills and the obstacles that can hinder its effective development; in particular, to understand and demonstrate the function of effective critical thinking within and about legal reasoning
2. Demonstrate a coherent knowledge of the difference between argument and non-argument and to distinguish good from poor reasoning.
3. Demonstrate a systematic understanding of different forms of reasoning, both legal and non-legal.
4. Demonstrate a coherent knowledge of the distinctiveness (if any) of legal reasoning.

The intended generic learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:
1. Utilise critical thinking skills in legal and non-legal contexts.
2. Identify and use a wide variety of argumentative techniques across a broader range of subjects.
3. Demonstrate knowledge of the value of non-legal material in the construction of effective legal argumentation.
4. Demonstrate appropriate independent legal research with minimal supervision, using a variety of legal sources and materials in order to formulate and apply legal argumentation to resolve given legal problem situations.
5. Retrieve up to date information, using paper and electronic sources including effective use of IT and other information retrieval systems; and systematically gather and evaluate relevant legal authority from a variety of legal sources, in particular case law,
6. Demonstrate relevant and appropriate legal and non-legal terminology with care, accuracy and confidence.


  1. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  2. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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