Sunday, January 29, 2012

Course Portfolios: First-Year Contracts by Gillian Hadfield

A few weeks ago, I mentioned the course portfolios on the Educating Tomorrow's Lawyers Website, which gives examples of doctrinal courses with strong skills elements.  A recent addition to this page by Gillian Hadfield illustrates how a first-year contracts course can better prepare students for practice.

She declares:

"I strongly believe that our efforts to bring problem-solving and team-based approaches into legal education should start in first year. I teach a first year Contracts course that still covers all the key doctrines but simultaneously gets students developing their skills in legal argument, analysis, judgment, and team work right out of the gates. This approach also significantly improves their understanding and retention of the legal rules and cases that have made up first year Contracts for decades."

She continues:

"A key goal of the course is to develop situated understanding of legal doctrines and in particular to focus on the development of fact-rich arguments and (on-point) counterarguments. Ambiguity and alternative interpretations of facts—and the exercise of judgment about the plausibility and strategic value of alternative interpretations—are emphasized. Other goals include the ability to see how legal issues interrelate, how their structure informs the assessment of the likelihood of success on alternative strategies for the client, and the development of judgment in identifying the most important issues on which to focus."

She concludes that "I have been teaching Contracts for 20 years and I feel confident that students master legal rules and doctrines better in this course than in the conventional course."

The above can only begin to demonstrate the wealth of detail on Hadfield's contracts portfolio page.  In addition, to discussing her methods in detail, she includes class materials, such as an outline, study materials, and a sample exam.

(Scott Fruehwald)

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