LAW30570 Contemporary Issues in Law and Politics

Academic Year 2022/2023

This module will deal with a selection (which may vary from offering to offering) of topics which illustrate the interface between the law, politics and public policy. Specific topics that may be dealt with - but which will vary from year to year - are the legislative process (and especially the parliamentary scrutiny of Bills,) law and the electoral process, relations between the executive and the judiciary, the media's role in reporting on law and the legal process, the role of legal expertise in the work of NGOs and other lobby groups, "judicial activism" and the developments in European law and governance. Other topics of a similar nature may also be addressed as they are raised by guest presenters. Seminars by guest speakers may form a part of the module, including current and former legal practitioners, public representatives, public servants, visiting academics and others with relevant professional experience, who will give an account of their experience of and reflections upon the role of legal expertise in politics and public life more generally. The last two to three weeks of the module will be largely taken up by student presentations.

The module is assessed by continuous assessment of class participation (10%), group presentations (20%) and of a final essay (70%).

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

Students should be able to relate the specific legal topics examined to their political and social context and be able to analyse those elements of the law studied in terms of the influence of that context. Students should be able to describe how the role which lawyers play as politicians and other types of public servant is influenced by their particular profession formation and to express well-grounded opinions as to the appropriate relationship between legal, political and other types of argument, as they bear on questions of public policy. Students should also be able to analyse critically the role of the media, NGOs, members of the legal profession and other groups who contribute to debates on public policy and to identify some of the typical rhetorical strategies used in defending or attacking policy proposals or decisions by reference to supposedly objective legal criteria. Finally, students should be able to reflect and express a considered judgement on how well lawyers generally communicate an understanding of the law and the legal system to the wider community.

Indicative Module Content:

Not all of the following topics will be covered in any single year, and others of a similar nature may be added. Students have input at the beginning of the trimester in relation to what topics they would like to cover.

Media coverage of crime and the criminal justice system

Gender parity in the legal system

Judicial appointments, ethics and accountability

The role of law in EU policy and governance

Regulatory cultures in areas such as environmental protection, climate change, health and safety and public health

Lawyers as campaigners, lobbyists and public affairs consultants

The political dimension of lawyers' ethos, ethics, business practices and regulation and of legal education

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours
Seminar (or Webinar)


Specified Learning Activities


Autonomous Student Learning




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
The module consists of a series of seminars based on preassigned reading on topics relevant to the learning outcomes. The discussion in seminars is divided equally between autonomous, student-led small group discussion of the readings and subsequent class discussions, led by the instructor. Students pick their own subjects for the group presentations in class and for their individual essays, subject to prior approval from the instructor in each case. Students are welcome to contact the instructor by email or to avail of his office hours, especially to consult him about the choice of topics for the group presentations and the essays. 
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations
Learning Requirements:

Students must have passed Constitutional Frameworks (LAW 10050) and Constitutional Rights (LAW 10060)

Learning Recommendations:

This module is compulsory for BCL Law with Politics students and assigned to Stage 4 of their degree. It is recommended that other students who take it as an option do so in the final year of their degree.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
LAW10050 - Constitutional Frameworks, LAW10060 - Constitutional Rights

Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade
Group Project: Students will work in groups of 3-4 on a presentation made in class on a topic chosen by the group which relates to the issues discussed in seminars. A group grade will be given for this component. Varies over the Trimester n/a Graded No


Continuous Assessment: Class participation Throughout the Trimester n/a Graded No


Essay: 2500 word essay Week 12 n/a Graded No


Carry forward of passed components
Resit In Terminal Exam
Summer No
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, on an activity or draft prior to summative assessment
• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment
• Group/class feedback, post-assessment
• Peer review activities

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

Students will be given individual feedback on their essays. Each group of students will be given feedback on their presentation to class. The class discussions will be structured in such a way as to enable students to receive feedback from each other and from the instructor in each weekly class.