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Legal Argument and Language in Law (Senior Status)


  • Credit value: 15 credits at Level 7
  • Convenor: Victoria Ridler
  • Assessment: case analyses of 2000 words and 1800 words (40%) and a take-home examination (60%)

Module description

This module teaches advanced legal skills and facilitates critical reflection on the nature of legal argument and language in law.

The module begins by introducing you to legal reasoning with an emphasis on in-class practical skill development. Building from key principles in logic, you will learn how to identify the structure of an argument as well as how to identify common fallacies and errors in logic. The in-class activities will include looking at the kinds of reasoning skills tests used by some law firms as well as law entry exams in the US (LSATS), and close case readings identifying legal arguments and drawing out the ratio decidendi of a judgement.

Looking beyond the ‘logic’ of an argument you are also introduced to rhetorical practices of persuasion; practices of legal interpretation; theories of language and power, etc.

Indicative module syllabus

  • Introduction to logic and the structure of an argument
  • Case analysis and ratio decidendi
  • Case analysis and rhetoric
  • Language and legal interpretation
  • Legal indeterminacy and the ‘open texture of law’
  • ‘Ideological effects’ in language and legal argument

Learning objectives

By the end of this module, you will be able to:

  • analyse and present the formal qualities of an argument, for example, evaluate whether a conclusion follows from its premises; how principles are derived from specific instances and cases; what a statement does or does not entail
  • identify different methods used in language and legal arguments that go beyond formal logic, such as rhetoric and creative approaches to interpretation
  • demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the relationship between key theories of law and practices of legal argument and language in law
  • demonstrate advanced understanding of the political and ethical implications of the ways in which the use of language in law and legal reasoning may privilege certain social, cultural or embodied identities or experiences
  • demonstrate the ability to critically reflect on use of language and legal reasoning in individual judgements.