Critical and Legal Reasoning - LAWS6400

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Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2021 to 2022
Autumn Term 6 15 (7.5) Per Laleng checkmark-circle


A central question of this module is whether, and to what extent, there is anything distinctive about legal reasoning compared to other forms of reasoning. That question is posed from the perspective of a legal practitioner, in particular, an advocate. The aim of the module is to equip students – as potential advocates, but also in general – with a range of tools and skills of argument that are easily transferrable across legal and non-legal contexts. In short, to teach transferrable critical thinking skills within a legal context.
It is a premise of the module that any competent advocate, or indeed lawyer, must demonstrate a proficient grounding in basic logic. The module introduces students to basic forms of logical argument and explores the role and limits of logical inference in legal reasoning and generally. It considers both logical and psychological factors that may lead to flawed reasoning. The module also touches on other forms of reasoning of particular relevance to law including practical, statistical, policy-based and rhetorical forms.
The aim of most reasoning, 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 to construct effective (legal) arguments and to practice the skills learned in a variety of written and oral contexts including skeleton arguments and mooting.


Contact hours

Total Contact Hours: 20
Private Study Hours: 130

Total Study Hours: 150

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

The module will be reassessed by a coursework reassessment instrument: a case analysis exercise.

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 identify valid and flawed arguments.
3. Demonstrate a systematic understanding of different forms of reasoning, both legal and non-legal.
4. Demonstrate a coherent knowledge of the distinctiveness of legal reasoning.

The intended generic learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:
1. Utilise critical thinking skills in wider legal and non-legal contexts.
2. Critically 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. Credit level 6. Higher level module usually taken in Stage 3 of an undergraduate degree.
  2. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  3. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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