Law in Action
Law in Action is a course that will introduce students to the reality of law in modern society and address such key issues as:
- What is law for, how is it made and how is it studied?
- Who are the key players in the legal system?
- How does law deal with the advantaged and disadvantaged in society?
- What is the role of the public in the justice system?
- How can law address deeply divisive and complex issues in society?
The Course will explore these issues through a number of specific examples of “law in action”, including legal disputes about when life begins and ends, the prosecution of serious criminal offences, investigation of war crimes and the analysis and presentation of forensic evidence in court. It will also address where law is going in the future: looking at the controversies that surround the increasing use of neuroscience and virtual reality in the courtroom.
The course approaches the study of law from an interdisciplinary perspective. Each seminar will be led by Professor Thomas, but most seminars will be taught in conjunction with another expert from Laws or from a different discipline. In this course students will acquire basic skills for studying law (locating, reading and outlining cases) and will take part in actual legal decision-making exercises, in which they will:
- Experience what it is like to serve on a jury and decide a criminal case
- Decide ethical dilemmas in law
- Experience how virtual technology is transforming the justice system
The module consists of 10 classes
Introduction to and Foundations of Law (2 seminars)
Seminar 1: The Legal and Judicial System
- What is law for and how is it made?
- The Legal Profession
- The Judicial System
Seminar 2: Legal Methods, Cases and Controversies
- how to read court judgments
- role of statutory interpretation and precedent
- judicial interpretation and judicial discretion
First written assignment: Students learn how to read court judgments by “outlining” a case and submitting this for feedback.
Trial by Jury: Public Participation in the Justice System (2 seminars)
Seminar 3: When the Public are the Judges
Hands-On Jury Decision-Making Session
Seminar 4: Are Juries Fair? Understanding How Juries Work
Contributor: Dr. Dave Lagnado (UCL Psychology)
Seminar 5: Law and Economics: The Socially Advantaged and Disadvantaged in the Legal System
Contributor: Dr. Nigel Balmer (UCL Centre for Empirical Legal Studies, Laws)
Quantitative Skills Task
Seminar 6: Law, Culture & Environment: Symbols, Rites and Architecture in Different Legal Culture
Contributor: Judge Antoine Garapon (Secretary-General, Institut des Hautes Etudes sur la Justice and UCL Judicial Institute)
Use of Interactive Legal Cultures Tool
Seminar 7: Law, Medicine & Ethics: Start and End of Life Decisions
Contributor: Professor Dame Hazel Genn (Dean UCL Laws & Co-Director UCL Judicial Institute)
Seminar 8: CSI: The Reality of Forensic Science from Crime Scene to Courtroom
Contributor: Dr. Ruth Morgan (UCL Crime Sciences) and Dr. Roxanna Ferllini (UCL Forensic Archaeology)
Seminar 9: Neuroscience and Law: Criminal Responsibility and Legal Decision-Making
Contributor: Dr. Geoff Bird (UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience)
Seminar 10: Can Justice be Virtual? The Impact of the Internet, and the Use of Virtual Reality in the Legal Process
Contributor: Professor Richard Susskind (UCL Judicial Institute)
Hands on Decision-Making
3 Written Assignments
- 2 receive written feedback from the Course Convenor and an indicative grade (but do not count towards the final grade)
- 1 (Final Coursework Essay) counts for 100% of final grade
Specific Written Assignments
- one case outline (week 2)
- one 1000 word Essay (week 7)
- one 3000 word Final Essay (end of term)