For the past four years, two instructors and approximately one hundred students have participated in a novel experiment in liberal arts legal education. Legal Inquiry, an upper-year course in the Arts & Science Program at McMaster University, seeks to “demystify legal knowledge for the curious student of the world.” It brings together two kindred yet previously isolated academic traditions: an open-ended inquiry approach to knowledge and a critical pluralist understanding of law.
To explore the compatibility of “law” and “inquiry,” the instructors wanted students to gain confidence and skills in engaging with formal legal sources, apply critical thinking to law, and appreciate informal and everyday law. These objectives were met with surprising success given the brevity of the course. Students achieved a basic understanding of formal law and legal reasoning, generated a vocabulary of what it means to think critically about law, and began to identify the continuity of formal and informal law.