Legal Systems and Method


CommunicationTeam WorkProblem SolvingResearchICT SkillsProfessionalism


This module introduces students to the nature and sources of law in Scotland to enable them to begin to find, explain and apply basic principles of Scots law.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this module the student should be able to:

1.  understand the origin and nature of law, basic legal concepts and classifications

2.  understand and describe the principal features of legal systems in general, and, in particular the Scottish legal system, its institutions and procedures

3.  find, use and interpret sources of law

4.  identify, state and apply legal principles, demonstrate skills of oral and written communication, legal reasoning, and reflection

Indicative Content

1 The Origin and Nature of Law

Theories on the origin and nature of law. Law and other systems of rules. Distinguishing the Civil and Common Law systems. The emergence of Scots Law.

2 Fundamental Legal Concepts.

The nature of obligations, legal rights and legal duties. The nature and concepts of Constitutions, separation of powers and the rule of law. Jurisdiction.

3 Sources of Law

Institutional writers, legal treatises and authoritative writings. Custom. Influence of Roman Law. Legislation. Case law. Investigating and comparing paper and electronic sources.

4 The System for Making and Amending Law

The legislative process in Scotland, the UK and the EU.

5 The System for Interpreting and Applying the Law.

The role of lawyers and the nature of legal services. The role of Judges and Courts. The Civil and Criminal Court system of Scotland. The Court system in the UK and EU. Hierarchy and precedent. Role of Tribunals.

6 Legislative Interpretation

The approaches to interpreting legislation in the UK, Scotland and the EU. Rules of statutory interpretation.

7 Case Law Interpretation

How and why cases are reported. Locating sources. The doctrine of Precedent. Ratio decidendi and obiter dicta. Distinguishing cases. Comparing Scottish, English and EU cases.

8 Construction and Communication of Legal Argument.

The nature of legal research. How to research a legal issue. Developing a legal opinion or argument. Presentation technique. The conventions of legal writing. Citation, abbreviations, terminology.

9 Introduction to Library-based Information services and research skills.

Layout of the library; library resources; Virtual library and the online catalogue; Virtual library information services; OSCOLA referencing.

10 Choosing and Using Specialist Sources of Information.

Specialist sources of information for professional practice (Westlaw, LexisNexis); Information services outwith the library (electronic journals, internet); The status of materials found outwith the library in terms of appropriate secondary authority and validity.

Statement on Teaching, Learning and Assessment

This module is delivered through interactive lectures, lectorials and tutorials, where students participate in the learning experience. Lectures are delivered via a mixture of traditional lectures and more active class-based activities, such as group-based problem solving exercises, Tutorials/lectorials include case/literature searching, referencing conventions (OSCOLA, )preparing for assessments, engaging in professional role play and case based learning on unseen material developing earlier class based contact. Students are required to evidence personal development in terms of legal research, the application of legal methods and the application of basic legal principles to problem based scenarios. In week 7 feedback will be provided on a non-assessed, exam-focused, exercise undertaken in week 6.

Teaching and Learning Work Loads

Total 200
Lecture 26
Tutorial/Seminar 13
Supervised Practical Activity 0
Unsupervised Practical Activity 0
Assessment 40
Independent 121

Guidance notes

Credit Value – The total value of SCQF credits for the module. 20 credits are the equivalent of 10 ECTS credits. A full-time student should normally register for 60 SCQF credits per semester.


We make every effort to ensure that the information on our website is accurate but it is possible that some changes may occur prior to the academic year of entry. The modules listed in this catalogue are offered subject to availability during academic year 2019/10 , and may be subject to change for future years.