This course aims to provide a grounding in the fundamentals of finding, interpreting, applying, and citing the main sources of law in common law jurisdictions, in particular the English legal system, and closely connected mixed legal systems (such as Scotland). Supported by practical exercises enabling students to ‘learn by doing’, the course is intended to equip participants with the skills needed to tackle mainstream legal research in Anglo-American legal systems, to evaluate and synthesise various forms of legal material and to ‘write up the law’ (in particular, using OSCOLA). In the first half of the course the focus is on legislation and case judgments. The second half of the course looks at works of authority, the proposals of law reform bodies, restatements, and other key texts, which often contribute to defining or re-defining the law.
Besides developing practical skills in using legal material in anglophone legal systems, the course assists participants in gaining insight into different methods and styles of law-making – both in contrast to civilian legal systems and (in sometimes nuanced ways) as between the common law (and mixed) systems under consideration. The wide-ranging review of the main sources of law and how they function brings to light choices in the legal system about the constitutional relationship of the judiciary to the legislature, affinity to other legal systems, systematisation of the law, and its accessibility and usability. The course concludes with a review of techniques of judicial reasoning, which plays such a pivotal role in practice in fixing the boundaries of judge-led legal innovation.