CLE15: Building a foundation for access to justice: unlocking the 1st year curriculum (PH)

by Pamela Henderson on 20/06/2015

Dr Liz Hefferman, associate professor at Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland is now talking to us and I’ve just scored my first handout of the day.

Liz wants to talk about the re-design of the curriculum Foundations of Law course (used to be known as the Irish Legal System).  She identifies access to justice as something that should be a threshhold concept, embedded into the curriculum.

There’s no equivalent to A Level law in Ireland, so pretty much everyone who embarks on a law degree is transitioning into college with no prior knowledge of law (though apparently their greatest fear on the transition process is ‘the fear of being bored’).

Okay, I want to go to Trinity College – it looks magnificent!

The bulk of students who undertake a law degree in Ireland come through a central applications process (CAO), based on the ‘points’ earned in public exams, though there are some other routes too.  This in itself raises issues around regulatory complexity and the challenges for some prospective students of grappling with it.

In the Foundation of Law module, the emphasis is more on small group sessions than lectures.  Assessments are constructively aligned and include courseworks and presentations, integrated into the course.  It forms a foundation for:

  • legal education
  • specialised modules in the later years and
  • legal practice

The theme of access to justice has been embedded into the module e.g. via Talk Justice, Perspectives on Justice, Buzz Groups and the Town Hall debate.


This requires, inter alia, active student engagement plus constructive alignment of assessment tasks to the module activities.  They have court visits, relevant student societies, development of research skills and engagement with legal aid.  Liz is talking very enthusiastically about some of the different dialogues they have stimulated among their students and how this helps to develop a broader understanding of linked concepts and professional values.

It certainly sounds like the Trinity students are a lively and enthusiastic lot.




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