Legal skills and debates in Scotland
Legal skills and debates in Scotland

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

2.1  Reasoning the law

The way in which judges reason their decisions is a vital component of how the law functions. The process of interpreting statutory provisions and applying case law is far more complicated than a simple formula for logical reasoning would suggest. It seems inevitable that factors outside of the logical and legal reasoning process must play a part in judicial decision-making. The amount of uncertainty inherent even in formal logical reasoning processes gives room for the engagement of non-legal factors to contribute to legal judgments: these factors may include morality, economics, politics and social issues. Judgments often come across as highly reasoned arguments, reaching the only inevitable conclusion based on the law through an objective and rigorous analysis of the evidence – statutes, common law, case law, etc. However, this is as much part of the narrative structure and rhetoric of legal argument as it is a reality.

Judicial decisions are often couched in the language of objectivity and at pains to show that conclusions are based on legal principles and logical argument rather than choices and extra-legal factors. However, the courts have to deal with many issues that require inherently political judgements and/or are not covered by the existing law. In these situations, factors such as the choice of precedent, identification of ratio decidendi, identification of relevant analogies, and even the application of overriding public policy concerns can reveal the devices used to ensure judgments appear both neutral and purely legal, and thereby free from bias and the influence of non-legal factors.

Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to University-level study, we offer two introductory routes to our qualifications. You could either choose to start with an Access module, or a module which allows you to count your previous learning towards an Open University qualification. Read our guide on Where to take your learning next for more information.

Not ready for formal University study? Then browse over 1000 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus371