Transformative, troublesome and liminal: Does the presentation of legal reasoning in the legal studies curricula in higher education institutions satisfy the characteristics of a threshold concept?
Taylor & Francis
School of Business and Law
A threshold concept is a crucial concept in learning whose defining characteristics are that it is transformative but sometimes troublesome to achieve. Legal reasoning has been viewed as a threshold concept in the legal studies curricula of higher education institutions which law students must master and, in some universities, is prescribed as a threshold graduate outcome for them to achieve. Referring to the formalistic model of legal reasoning, known as IRAC (issue, rule, application, conclusion) or similar acronyms, the question addressed in this paper is whether this method for legal reasoning is appropriate to lead towards the satisfaction of the characteristics of a threshold concept in legal studies. Through an in-depth examination of the literature on the three, primary characteristics that define a threshold concept: that it is “transformative, troublesome, and liminal”, it will be posited that use of the formalistic variant of IRAC is not suitable for the acquisition of legal reasoning skills. Rather, it is argued that a model underpinned by legal syllogism better aligns with these three characteristics of a threshold concept and with how law students might solve legal problems in the real world.