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Reflective journals and essays on an LLM

Case study by Julian Killingley (University of Central England) illustrating how reflective journals and essays have been put into effect on the LLM in International Human Rights at UCE.


Aims

One route on this course allows students to do an extended internship in the US (3-6 months), working in an American legal firm or campaign group. The ‘USA pathway’ focuses on the conflict between the American constitution, American law and international standards, in particular with relation to capital punishment. Students assist with death row trials and appeals, or can arrange to have a broader internship working on prisoners’ rights and related issues. Students are encouraged to think about their learning during the placement and to reflect on their actions, such that they inform and improve future learning and performance.

Requirements and evidence

Students are required to keep a weekly reflective journal on their performance within the attorney office. Students are required to complete three parts of the journal as follows:

  1. Indicate against the following list which of the activities you have practised: organisation and management of legal work, legal analysis and reasoning, oral and written communication skills, team work, litigation skills, recognising and resolving ethical dilemmas, maturity and judgement.
  2. Consider the principal activities conducted during the week (this can include anything from writing memos, office duties and visiting clients in jail).
  3. Reflect on your experience, using this list of prompt questions to structure your reflection:

  • Which single activity that you have undertaken this week do you consider to be your best achievement?
  • How could you further improve upon that achievement?
  • Which single activity that you have undertaken this week do you consider to be your least successful achievement?
  • Why do you think you were unable to do better than you did?
  • How would you go about doing that activity differently if you were called to do it again?

Students also have to write a reflective essay. These are completed after the internship, and should critically examine the problems attendant on establishing a particular kind of international human rights law claim in either state or federal law.

Assessment

The journals are compulsory, with assessment based on a report written by the host attorney/firm against the criteria listed in part 1, worth 20% of the module. Students also have to prepare a memorandum, motion and brief, worth 30%. The final 50% is awarded on the quality of the reflective essay.

Observations and recommendations

Reflection aids employability – the internship and reflective practice element provides invaluable practical experience of legal practice that is extremely attractive to potential employers

Reflection takes practice – reflection does not come naturally to students, or to practitioners. Many query its value and are suspicious about the need for it. Some might find it helpful to read a very odd book: Keeva S (2002)
Transforming practices: finding joy and satisfaction in legal life (Chicago: Contemporary Books).

Resources

  • Essential reading for students on the course: Ogilvy J, Wortham L and Lerman L (1998)
  • Learning from practice: a professional text for legal interns (Eagan: West Group).

 

Last Modified: 4 June 2010