• Prof. Derek P Auchie

How To Teach Dispute Resolution

Updated: Jul 6, 2021

The title of this post could be 'how to teach law', but that is perhaps too controversial, for now at least....

Teaching dispute resolution to hundreds (if not thousands) of postgraduate and undergraduate students has led me to two guiding principles on how that is best done.

My first principle is that process subjects should be taught by taking students through that process, stage by stage.

Arbitration is no exception, and I have recently finished coordinating another year of the University of Aberdeen's Professional Arbitration Skills course, taught over 10 days across 3 weeks. Students are put through their paces by a number of expert external tutors, each of whom teaches a different part of the process: the arbitration agreement, jurisdiction, written pleadings, preliminary hearing, document discovery, expert witnesses, oral advocacy, the hearing, the award, award challenge and award enforcement.

This gives students a global view of the process, so that they can understand how it all fits together, from start to finish. It works.

Back to my initial point: all law could be taught in this way - I call it a 'transactional approach' and I recently wrote an article in the journal for Scottish lawyers on the subject.

My second principle is that process is best learned by doing as well as understanding. That’s why when teaching mediation, I find that students learn from role-paying and observing role-play. They can really see the value in the techniques when they try them out and see others doing so. It brings the theory alive.

In arbitration tuition, examples of leaning by doing include: drafting an arbitration agreement, making an oral submission, writing arbitral pleadings and preparing an award. Having used all of these in class activities and assessments, it is obvious that it brings home the nuances of these critical practical tasks.

A creative, practical approach to how we learn is needed when it comes to the law, especially process law.

These guiding principles allow teaching on dispute resolution to come alive and be memorable.

That's how to teach the subject (in my view, anyway!).