Title

Teaching first-year law students to think like (good) lawyers

Date of this Version

1-1-2014

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Details

Citation only

James, N. (2014). Teaching first-year law students to think like (good) lawyers. In L. Wolff & M. Nicolae (Eds.), The first-year law experience: A new beginning (pp. 32-45). Braddon, Australia: Halstead Press.

Access the publisher

Copyright © L. Wolff & M. Nicolae, 2014

2014 HERDC submission.

ISBN

9781925043105

Abstract

Extract: Instead of treating 'thinking like a lawyer' as an implicit threshold concept to be learned by law students immediately, and treating an appreciation of the importance of ethical practice and social justice as explicit graduate attributes to be learned by law students by the time they graduate, 'thinking like a lawyer' should be redefined to include an appreciation of the importance of ethical practice and social justice, and the redefined notion-thinking like a (good) lawyer- should be repositioned as an explicit threshold concept for first year law students. By expanding the notion of "thinking like a lawyer" to include an appreciation of the importance of ethical practice and social justice, we acknowledge that questions of "right or wrong" and "fair or unfair" are appropriate topics for lawyerly reflection, which in tum gives the students permission to incorporate their personal beliefs and values into the legal reasoning process. The beliefs and values that law students bring to their legal education are not 'mush' that fills their skulls. They are a legitimate basis for critical reflection upon the non-legal (but no less relevant) aspects of the problems that lawyers in practice are called upon to resolve. If the curriculum can demonstrate respect for the student's beliefs, values and feelings, the students themselves are less likely to abandon them in favour of moral neutrality, lack of interest in social justice issues, and potentially harmful cynicism.

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This document has been peer reviewed.