How do we ‘learn Law?’
Legal education has evolved and changed throughout periods of history. Cicero learned the 12 tables and the Edicts of the Praetors off by heart as a boy. The laws of Rome were etched in copper in the market place and legal problems and their remedies discussed in the forum by the orators and jurists.
In 2011 recognised methods of legal education recognise the need for different methodologies of teaching practice and in some ways a return to the Roman Forum has emerged.
In the days of Rome a jurist would allow citizens an audience in their home for a consultation on ‘the law’.
They would discuss and analyse different methods of advocacy with the orators. Much of this (in my opinion) has been lacking in legal education of late but I am delighted to say that at the Diploma in Legal Practice at The University of Glasgow a return to the traditional methods of teaching fills me with so much delight that I want to squeal.
Having studied Roman law to honours level I always marvelled at imagining the forum with a respected legal professional held in awe of his students hanging on his every word and hoping to snatch a tiny nugget of wisdom that may indeed help him to plead his own case better for his client.
The beginning of this week we were visited by a Justice of the UK Supreme Court (Lord Rodger of Earlsferry) and this process began. I was left dumbstruck by the skill and knowledge of Lord Rodger and was even more delighted to hear that we would be visited on Wednesday by another Judge Lord Turnbull.
Almost like the ambience of the Roman Forum the room settled and one could hear a pin drop as Lord Turnbull delivered the magnificent nuggets of guidance to all of the students in advanced criminal litigation class.
As a Law student keen to build a career in litigation and court work the experience of these two Lords is priceless. You can read about it in a book, you can listen to others but what you cannot do as a student is benefit from years of court and the wisdom that these two Lords gave us.
Lord Turnbull has presided over many high-profile cases . His lecture focussed on trial advocacy and discussed how to build your case by preparation, preparation and yes you got, in even more preparation. He gave us step by step, easy to follow formulae to how to do this in precise detail.
My mind map was amazing. He guided us through what we need to ascertain from a witness to how we extract that information by examination in chief to cross-examination. He Left us with the following which are now etched on my brain:
O = open questions
S = Simple language
S = Short sentences
1 = 1 fact per question.
He discussed methods of preparing notes and offered us tips on the list and order of witnesses he planted a very strong seed in the mind of ( a keen and budding Advocate-to- be)
He discussed the four stages all advocates should consider 1.Commit 2. Credit 3. confront and 4. contradiction
Lord Turnbull was a polished speaker and delighted us all by taking questions at the end.
When I left for the evening I found my mind to be in a bit of a tizzy as I walked home wishing that I could go straight into court and try all his tips out, right now.
The Diploma in Legal Practice is delivering so much more than I had anticipated and although it is intended to be a ‘practical course’ I had no idea that I would feel as honoured as I have done this week.
I cannot wait to become an advocate.
Thank you Lord Rodger and Lord Turnbull
Thank you for following Diary of a Diploma student and I hope you continue to follow me through the Diploma.