Using role play scenarios for teaching employment law

Keith Patten, Lecturer

Newcastle Law School

Humanities and Social Sciences

What did you do?

Use role play scenarios in seminars to replicate real client interaction

Who is involved?

Keith Patten and Stage 3 Employment Law students

How do you do it?

In small group seminar sessions for stage 3 employment law students I played the role of a client (a recently unemployed waitress) while the students played the role of legal advisors. This required the students to ask questions in order to extract information necessary for them to advise. At the end of the seminar the students needed to give legal advice. This meant that unless they had asked the right questions they would not have obtained the necessary information.

Initially I take a question from each student in turn and then any further questions from anyone who still has things to ask. To replicate a real client interaction the students have very limited background information before the seminar starts.

While playing the client I only provide the information they ask for; I do not volunteer extra information if they do not ask for it.

Why do you do it?

To help demonstrate the operation of law in context. Students need to understand that law is not just about learning a set of abstract rules; they also need to be able to do something with those rules when faced with a real life situation.

Does it work?

Yes. It works whether or not the students ask the right questions and get the right information because if they do they can then move on to give advice; if they don’t they will recognise their inability to give meaningful advice because of lack of information. We then have a more general discussion at the end about what might have been missing. This is not a technique to be used all the time in all seminars, but it is a useful alternative approach for certain types of material.

Contact Details

Keith Patten, Lecturer

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