Friday, 4 March 2011

What did you learn?

Why are Americans so keen on high school and college sports? Is it because of the joy of physical activity? The importance of staying fit? or does it run a little bit deeper?

Last year I watched Randy Pausch's last lecture and loved what he described  as the 'head fake', the idea that while you're focused on learning one thing, really you're being taught something else. Pausch gives the example of high school football, saying that the 'head fake' about playing football, is that while learning all the key skills for the game such as throwing, catching, running etc he also learned teamwork, tenacity, the importance of a good work ethic and a great deal more ('Don't complain, just work harder' is probably my favorite). Pausch's 'head fake' is what some have called the hidden curriculum and it's something which I believe runs deep at law school.

Are we expected, as law students to ace every exam and retain all the information from each of the many areas of law we've studied, emerging from our LL.B as experts in a variety of areas of the law? It'd be grand if we could, but I think that's not really the point, especially when so many of us won't go on to become solicitors/advocates and those who do will no doubt specialize in one particular field. Don't get me wrong, the LL.B course is full of great content about the law which I'll go on to use, but I think the skills learned on the course are every bit as valuable as the knowledge gained.

An example of this is 'Legal Methods', one of the classes which I had to take in my first semester of first year, here we learned about the all important distinction between obiter and ratio, how to reference correctly and the structure of the court system in Scotland and the UK. To me however, the real lesson of the class was how to read a case and how to think critically about a judgement.

Joining the mooting society is another area with a hidden curriculum. The key skill to be gained form mooting is that of 'Advocacy', learning how to construct legal arguments and submit them verbally in a court setting. Which is fantastic, but for me the real value in joining the mooting society is the positive impact it's had on my research skills. Before mooting I didn't know how to find hard-copies of cases and journal articles, (I was shamefully reliant on Westlaw), now I actually prefer using the law reports and journals found on the shelves of the library. Another massive bonus from the mooting society is working closely with a partner on a legal issue, something which I've had no direct experience of so far on my degree course.

In a world with an increasingly turbulent employment market, the more value we can find and transferable skills we can learn and be aware of the better. I strongly believe that there is a great deal to be learned from law school over and above 'black letter' law, and wherever I decide to go with my LL.B I'm sure I'll be adding more to my CV than just my academic qualifications.


  1. Sound comment Drew.

    Having been judging moots all week at Glasgow University, I am certain that mooting is one area where students can gain additional skills, or build upon current relevant ones, to give them that extra boost when it comes to securing valuable employment.

    Blogging and becoming competent with professional media use is another way to build up relevant skills, develop personal brand and show future employers exactly where value can be added.

    Great posts so far Drew, thanks for the blogroll additions and I look forward to further posts.

    Best wishes

  2. I hope you can finish up soon. I admire your enthusiasm though.
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