The Modern Judiciary – online course

Hi everyone! I recently completed an online course on FutureLearn called “The Modern Judiciary: Who They Are, What They Do and Why it Matters”. The course was run by James Lee of The Dickson Poon School of Law at King’s College London and explores the role of judges in the UK, their daily business, court structures and discusses judicial diversity. In this blog, you’ll find a summary of what is covered in the course, as we well as my thoughts and takeaways. If you’re interested, you can find the link to the course HERE.

Content

The course is split into 5 weeks, covering one topic per week:

  1. Judges and the legal system
    • Court structures
    • Types of claims in each court
    • Appeals
    • Overview of the UK Supreme Court (UKSC)
  2. Judges and legal reasoning
    • How judges reach decisions
    • The role of precedent in our legal system
    • Statutory interpretation and the different approaches that can be adopted in reaching a decision
  3. Judges in courts and tribunals
    • More detail about court structures – criminal and civil cases
    • The process of sentencing
    • Tribunals: the structure, the types of claims etc
  4. Judges beyond the courtroom
    • What judges do outside of the courtroom – for example, public outreach programmes
    • Judicial appointments
    • Reform of judicial appointments
    • Diversity within the legal profession
  5. Judges, the media and the public
    • The role and effect of social media on the law
    • Judicial independence and impartiality

Teaching style

I really liked the way in which this course was taught because it used a wide variety of tools. The course was a combination of podcasts, videos, pdf documents, and discussion forums. There is also a transcript available for all the audio media, which is really useful to check up/confirm something instead of trying to rewind the video clip etc. There are then case studies for you to complete, as well as some quizzes to test you on the materials you’ve just learned about.

The information also comes from a variety of sources, including first-hand from many judges in the English and Welsh legal system across different levels. They provided personal journey insights and their thoughts on the legal profession.

Takeaway

I think this was a good course to complete, albeit a bit brief and basic in some parts – for example, on court structures. I don’t think this was too much of a surprise as the course does say it is aimed at those at the beginning of their LLBs or for non-law students interested in pursuing a career in law. There aren’t any prerequisites for the course, so anyone can join!

However, I did really enjoy the ‘interactive’ aspect of the course, especially on the topics such as judicial reasoning and statutory interpretation. I liked that you could compare your answers with others on the discussion forum and learn how others arrived at their conclusion. The legal diversity topic was also particularly interesting, and increasingly prevalent in today’s legal industry! I also found the content from the different justices incredibly insightful and loved hearing about their journeys to becoming judges.

Overall, I would recommend this course, particularly to those at the start of their legal careers as it does provide some useful content in a fun and interactive way. Having said that, the topics on judicial appointments, legal diversity and case studies are interesting that even those further on in their legal studies/post-LLB could gain from!

Although the course states that it’s 5 weeks long with 3 hours of study weekly, you can complete the course in your own time and at your own pace. Best of all, the course is currently free and if you have some spare time during this lockdown period, it’s something you could consider doing! Happy to answer any questions about the course, so please do reach out to me!

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