Critical and Legal Reasoning - LW640

Location Term Level Credits (ECTS) Current Convenor 2017-18 2018-19
(version 2)
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6 15 (7.5) MR PC Laleng


LW313 A Critical Introduction to Law; and
LW315 Introduction to Obligations; and
LW508 Criminal Law or; LW601 Advanced Level Criminal Law (on a co-requisite basis)


Only available to Law students.



A central question of this module is whether, and to what extent, there is anything distinctive about legal reasoning compared to reasoning in general. 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.
It is a premise of the module that any competent advocate, or indeed lawyer, must demonstrate a proficient grounding in elementary logic. As such, the module will explore, and students will be expected to demonstrate, the role played inferential logic within legal reasoning. The module will also consider logical and other fallacies. For example, and drawing on Schauer, by asking whether authority-based reasoning (ie the doctrine of precedent) is a fallacy; and, drawing on Kahneman, by investigating the role played by psychological heuristics in all forms of decision-making including legal forms.
In addition to the conventional categories of inferential reasoning, the module will consider other forms of reasoning including, but not limited to, practical, statistical, and marginal/economic forms. In the latter context, and drawing on Farnsworth, it will consider the differences between ex post and ex ante forms of reasoning: the first response being about cleaning up after things have gone wrong, and the second about the effects of decisions in the future. The latter perspective leads naturally to a broader consideration of policy-based reasoning in general.
Students will explore the role played by different forms of reasoning in different contexts; for example by considering and demonstrating the use of logical deduction and probable inference in the context of legal proof (evidence) and the role of other forms of reasoning, including rhetoric, in the formulation of legal arguments.
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 ranging from skeleton arguments, oral presentations, mock trials and/or applicationsand/or mooting (subject to availability). Students will be expected to reflect critically on their learning practice by producing a self-reflective portfolio.


This module appears in:

Contact hours

One lecture and one seminar per week over 10 weeks.


Autumn term.

Method of assessment

100% coursework, consisting of a combination of:

One written assessment of 1500 words (30% ) an Oral presentation (30%) and a Self-reflective portfolio of 1500 words (40%).

Preliminary reading

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

See the library reading list for this module (Medway)

Learning outcomes

On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

Demonstrate a coherent knowledge of the difference between argument and non-argument and to identify valid and flawed arguments, both legal and non-legal.
Demonstrate a systematic understanding of different forms of reasoning, both legal and non-legal; in particular to distinguish between and exemplify different forms of inferential reasoning, both legal and non-legal.
Demonstrate a coherent knowledge of the distinctiveness of legal reasoning; in particular, demonstrate a systematic understanding of the different forms of argument required by trial and appellate advocacy.
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, understand and demonstrate the function of effective critical thinking within and about legal reasoning in a variety of contexts using a variety of techniques.
Perform one or more complex legal advocacy tasks; in particular, to construct a skeleton argument intended for an appellate court on a complex legal issue and to orally deliver an argument on a complex legal issue.
Demonstrate a coherent knowledge of the limits of logical and legal reasoning; in particular by evidencing detailed knowledge of other factors influencing legal and other decision-making.

Reflect constructively on and evaluate their own learning processes.

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