This course on Legal Method, in its current form, has three principal objectives.
The first objective is to introduce students to the basic terminologies of law in general, and of the common law system in particular. We will achieve this objective in the first part of the course. During this period, the course will focus on some preliminary themes:
(a) The sources of law, their hierarchy, and their makers;
(b) A brief history of the common law system, and its emphasis on precedents;
(c) The nature of common law reasoning; and
(d) The IRAC approach to case analysis.
With this introduction over, the course will focus on two particular sources (types) of law and how to meaningfully engage with them: Cases and statutes.
The second objective is to introduce students to the first of these two: techniques of case analyses. The emphasis is on equipping students with a set of skills that will render them qualified to read and interpret the different parts of any given case. Examples will be drawn from both private and public law so that students acquire at least a preliminary sense of how public law analyses differ from private law analyses. The course will focus on some of these aspects:
(a) Analogical reasoning;
(b) Identifying and constructing ratios, and distinguishing them from obiter dicta; and
(c) An introduction to reasoning by precedents and the doctrine of stare decisis.
The third and final component of the course will deal with statutory interpretation. Apart from cases, statutes are the most important and common source of law. The course will introduce students to the general principles of statutory interpretation. Once again, we will examine a variety of statutes, from public and private law, and from civil and criminal law. The course will focus on some of the following aspects:
(a) General principles of statutory interpretation (e.g. the literal rule, the golden rule, the purposive rule);
(b) Relevance of parliamentary intent and finding parliamentary intent (including case-laws);
(c) Specific principles for interpreting criminal law-related statutes; and
(d) A brief overview of constitutional interpretation.
Overall, the course is designed to introduce students to the techniques of legal analysis – an essential building block on which they may erect their substantive knowledge of the law at CityU and beyond.
The course will be conducted in part through the Socratic Method. Students are strongly expected to come prepared, having read all of, and assimilated at least parts of, the assigned readings. The purpose of the lecture and tutorial is not to regurgitate the readings. Rather, the point is to use the readings as the basis for a more advanced analysis. As such, students should not expect PPTs to be used in the classroom. (They may be used sporadically, but the instructor will not circulate PPTs that summarise the weekly readings.)
For an introduction to the Socratic Method, see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rBBetEGvKpQ.