Learning Innovation Unit, Dublin City University

Learning Innovation Unit

Dr. Adam McAuley - Creating a clinical legal education environment

Principal Applicant

Adam Mc Auley

School or Unit

Law and Government

Additional Applicants

Brenda Daly, Law and Government, brenda.daly@DCU.ie

Michael Doherty, Law and Government, michael.doherty@DCU.ie

David Tomkin, Law and Government, David.Tomkin@DCU.ie

Amount requested



Traditional, law learning has been solely passive. Students attend lectures and tutorials, compile notes, study academic material and sit exams. They complain justly that law courses are too "academic". They are deprived of experiencing the immediate excitement of real-life problems, and the necessity to apply knowledge, logic and practical savvy to arrive at an appropriate solution. This application will change this. It will provide an opportunity to learn as lawyers do, by repeated confrontation with real-life clinical law problems, by analysis, sourcing relevant law, and describing and presenting a proposed solution in such a way as to facilitate the client. This project will provide students with a learning environment that is instructor-facilitated, student-centered, and interactive

Project URL


Will the project facilitate flexible access (in the context of lifelong learning or otherwise) or facilitation of longer-term provision for special needs


Is the project related to the development of DCU's six academic themes


Strategic Context

The Project will: -

* Assess the pedagogical methods of passive and active learning

* Develop innovative virtual learning environment

* Assist in addressing the challenge of life-long learning

* Offer commercial potential with the possibility of the first online diploma and/or degree in Irish law

Implementation Plan

The Project involves the following applicants, a research assistant and modules: -

Michael Doherty – LG101 Introduction to Law (Semester 1 and 2)

Adam Mc Auley – LG115 Learning to Learn (Semester 1 and 2)

Brenda Daly – LG118 Constitutional Law (Semester 2)

David Tomkin – LG319 Company Law (Semester 2)

The applicants and researcher will receive further training from OVPLI on the quiz, lesson plan, chat, and forum teaching tools of Moodle. The researcher will insert hyperlinks to augment the teaching materials for each module. The applicants and researcher will recast draft problems for different teaching tools on Moodle. These tools will assist students to: -

* Recollect essential information: This information can be simple or complex. A Moodle quiz will be developed for Introduction to Law and Company Law that allows students to test their ability to recollect this information

* Applying legal principles and court procedure to case studies: The applicant and research assistant will provide two or three real-life problems that can only be answered correctly by familiarity with the substantive law. The lesson plan will be used to provide students with a case study in Introduction to Law, Learning to Learn and Constitutional Law. The lesson plan and forum will be used for a Moot Court problem in Learning to Learn. A Moot Court involves students arguing an appeal of a fictitious case in a Courtroom. The Moodle resource page for the Moot Court will contain MPEGs showing students a Moot Court in action.

* Critical thinking and analysis: The chat and forum aspects of Moodle will be used to develop critical thinking online tutorials in Constitutional Law and Company Law so students reflect and analyse how and why the law has developed in a particular direction.

The Project will start at the beginning of August and end mid-May.

Impact and Evaluation

Students will be provided with a learning environment whose purpose is to develop problem solving skills and critical analysis. Students will complete a survey form to assess the effectiveness of this environment. Introduction to Law is taught twice to two separate groups of students. Therefore, students in second semester will benefit from the improvements made in first semester. There are a number of students who will undertake Introduction to Law, Learning to Learn and Constitutional Law. These students will be asked to compare the clinical legal education environment in first and second semester. Students can comment on the virtual teaching tool via an online suggestion box. These comments will be used to remedy teething difficulties and make improvements. The applicant lecturers will make each other aware of issues, problems and possible improvements to the virtual teaching tools.

Dissemination and Sustainability

The project and student surveys will form the basis of an article for the Journal of Information, Law & Technology (JILT) www.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/law/elj/jilt/. The project will be self-sustaining as the applicants will have the pedagogical knowledge and technical expertise to advance clinical legal education at the completion of the project

Detailed Budget

The applicants will employ a Research Assistant at a Tutor Rate of €22.34 per hour. The hourly rate is necessary to attract a suitably qualified graduate. The research assistant would be employed for 466 hours: 120 hours for the Introduction to Law, Constitutional Law and Company Law module and 60 hours for Learning to Learn.

76 hours of the 120 for Introduction to Law, Constitutional Law and Company Law will be spent on the development of virtual teaching tools and 44 hours on monitoring these tools during each semester. 36 hours of the 60 hours for Learning to Learn will be spent on the development of the virtual teaching tools and the remaining 24 hours on monitoring these tools during each semester. The total cost of the tutor would be 12,451.93.

There are a number of books on clinical legal education. The cost of these would be 300.

The School of Law and Government is the youngest School in the University. Currently, the School has a limited budget to spend on employing research assistants for a teaching project.

Support from Head of School/Unit

Robert Elgie: I endorse this application as head of the School of Law and Government. The School of Law and Government has adopted the following regarding the virtual learning environment Moodle:

1. All modules to be supported by Moodle

2. Minimum content for School Moodle pages:

A. Course aims and objectives

B. Assessment details and deadlines

C. Office hours

D. Staff phone and email

E. Reading list by topic and/or week

F. Embedded links to electronic sources (see attached document from the library)

G. Links to all overheads or notes

The School is supportive of lecturers who wish to explore the opportunities for innovation in teaching. The proposed project is highly innovative, the lecturers concerned are highly motivated by Moodle and have already used it in the classes. Assuming sufficient budgetary resources, we would hope to implement the lessons of the proposed project on modules across the School more generally in the coming years. Overall, the project deserves to be supported.

Other Information

The importance of problem solving and

Copyright 2005 The Irish Times

The Irish Times

March 4, 2005

SECTION: Finance; Newsfeatures; Pg. 4

LENGTH: 717 words

HEADLINE: Problem-solving is vital for legal career

BYLINE: John Downes

You could be forgiven for thinking that watching US TV shows like Law and Order would give you an idea of the skills that a lawyer needs. The ability to stand in the courtroom, play to the jury and catch out opposition witnesses seem to be a prerequisite for anyone considering a legal career - at least in a TV series.

But what are the skills that you really need to pursue a legal career? It might surprise you to know that while solicitors frequently represent their clients in court, it is by no means a given that they will do so. While the theatrical aspect of some courtroom performances can be useful in winning a case - a role frequently filled by barristers in Ireland - they are not always essential. Indeed, there are other equally important skills which you need for a successful career.

According to Ken Murphy, director general of the Law Society, the professional body for solicitors in Ireland, a successful solicitor should have the ability to analyse various situations. This includes the ability to identify problems in complex legal and fact-based scenarios, he explains. However, he points out that the ability to provide solutions is also essential.

"To some extent, lawyers are professional problem-solvers. People transfer the burden of a problem onto their shoulders, so lawyers have to focus on obtaining the best practical outcome," he explains.

"You need to identify correctly what the problems and issues are and, most importantly, offer solutions."

Legal cases can usually be separated into two types: contentious and non-contentious, Murphy says.

Contentious cases involve some kind of dispute, and often lead to litigation. This means that there are two sides involved and that both are looking for a different outcome. It is important for a lawyer representing a party in such a case to develop an argument firmly based in law -and to anticipate the others party's argument, Murphy adds.

Non-contentious cases, on the other hand, could include the purchase of a house or the takeover of a business, where lawyers represent a number of parties. In this instance, all parties have a mutual interest in the outcome. Important legal skills in both types of cases include the ability to negotiate for your client; the capacity to draft documents in a way that expresses things clearly and logically, and advocacy - the ability to put forward your client's case, says Murphy.

"Advocacy is a key legal skill," he says. "But it is not just standing up in court, it is also the ability to argue a case on the telephone, for example."

Solicitors also spend a lot of time conducting client interviews, he points out. The ability to sort out what is relevant - and what is not - is important and requires interpersonal skills, he believes.

"One of the defining skills is people skills - to be able to develop trust and empathy with a client. You need to be capable of realising that this is not just a theoretical legal problem, it's a problem that relates to real people and their lives," he says.

"One of the things we look for is the capacity to relate to people. This is more relevant to solicitors as barristers don't often deal directly with the public."

"Many people have a false impression of the legal profession because of what they see on TV," he continues.

"You really need a capacity for hard work. It's a demanding profession, so you need to be able to handle stress. Lawyers are often workaholics."

People working in the legal profession also have to enjoy reading, says Ivana Bacik, Reid Professor of Criminal Law at Trinity College Dublin because case arguments need to be based on thorough research.

Analytical skills also plays a huge role, she agrees.

"You need good analytical skills to distil what you read - and problem-solving skills," she explains.

"Law is not an exact science, but you need to be able to apply law and legal principles to problems."

While the ability to argue persuasively is widely acknowledged as crucial to a barrister's work, Bacik points out that it is also important to a solicitor's work.

"It is important to speak confidently in public, but this can be achieved through practice," she says.

"Passion is also important - law is competitive, so you need to be motivated."