Legal Skills Academy
Utrecht University's educational vision emphasises the importance of 'skills' in the life of critical global citizens. For students who want to further develop into socially engaged and versatile academic professionals, skills are indispensable. Skills are also inextricably linked to acquiring substantive knowledge. Within Utrecht University's School of Law, the Legal Skills Academy (LSA) strengthens legal skills education.
The goal of the LSA is to strengthen legal skills in the bachelor’s programme as well as all of our legal master’s programmes. The activities of the Legal Skills Academy fall into two categories:
- Building a knowledge and expertise center
- Contributing to reforms in education and the curricula of the bachelor program and legal master’s programs based on our three focus areas: writing, presenting and collaboration
In preparation for their role in society as well as their professional role as academically trained lawyers, students benefit from education that develops and strengthens their legal skills as an integral part of it. To support and inspire students and teachers in this education, a centre of knowledge and expertise is required.
As a knowledge and expertise centre for legal skills, the LSA supports and inspires students and teachers. To this end, the LSA makes resources and materials on legal skills available to students and lecturers, and contributes to reform in education through various activities, in order to create a recognisable, coherent and up-to-date supply of legal skills in undergraduate and graduate education.
As part of the School of Law, the LSA focuses on the legal skills that help students in their academic education, as well as in their professional lives. The broad palette of these skills ranges from negotiation to critical thinking. To focus its activities, the LSA aims its effort (for now) at three skills that are especially important for lawyers: writing, speaking (in public) and collaboration. These three skills can be mutually reinforcing and are also closely linked to other skills such as critical thinking, argumentation and communication.
In the academic education of the lawyer, (learning) to write is important. An essential part of legal studies consists of systematising, analysing and interpreting legal sources and literature, and subsequently making this work accessible in writing. The law student learns to discuss legal sources and literature through writing and articulating arguments and conclusions. In the professional life of lawyers, writing plays a major role. Accurate and clear writing is essential to explain, advise and persuade.
We help students to, for example, set up their thesis. In this way, we provide guidance in a phase that students still often find difficult.
Speaking in public
A lawyer cannot (usually) suffice with written communication and must also master oral expression skills. Law students therefore hone their oral skills in various forms. They learn to present their research, express their thoughts in discussions, and argue in simulations such as moot courts. In many of the professions our students will enter, oral skills are essential. Pleading in a courtroom obviously captures the imagination, but in addition lawyers may have to advise clients, present policy papers or negotiate with parties.
A lawyer often works – at least partly – as part of a team, so cooperation is an essential part of the job. This means that a lawyer must be able to reflect on the work with others, and give and receive feedback. To work well together, a lawyer must also possess other skills, such as self-reflection and awareness, planning and time management, cultural awareness, problem solving and communication.
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