Computing legal analysis: A guided approach to problem solving in contract law

Activity: Talk or presentationOral presentation


Problem solving is an essential and unfamiliar legal skill which first year law students often find daunting and difficult to grasp. Our five-step guided approach to problem solving is designed to simplify a complex analytical process through the use of visual aids and logic. Students are instructed to (1) identify and extract legal content from their learning, which is then (2) organised into a coherent legal framework. The framework can then (3) be applied to a problem scenario to identify the legal issues, relevant rules, and overall structure. Having created an outline of advice, these frameworks also guide students to (4) construct their analysis of each legal issue through visualising their arguments and its essential elements. This may include the specification of rules applied, their extension, distinction, and counter argument. The final step (5) is then to write up their overall piece of legal advice in a detailed, persuasive, and authoritative manner.

The wider context of our pedagogical approach is the theory and practice of argumentation and legal reasoning (Prakken 2020). Problem solving in the classroom is inspired by the experimental expert knowledge systems that take on legal case-based reasoning like CATO (Aleven & Ashley 2003) and the theory of argumentation schemes used in legal reasoning such as the one implemented in ASPIC+ (Modgil & Prakken 2014). We expect that the link between pedagogical practice and computational modelling could be exploited for the benefit of both enterprises, for example, by developing an educational tool similar to CATO that empowers students to build arguments and tackle problem questions of increasing complexity. At this point, legal reasoning research provides an impetus for our pedagogical practice, but our approach may eventually also provide results for the successful computational modelling of legal argument.
Period9 Sept 2022
Event title113th Annual Conference of the Society of Legal Scholars
Event typeConference
LocationLondon, United KingdomShow on map
Degree of RecognitionNational


  • contract law
  • problem solving
  • Legal reasoning
  • pedagogy
  • computational modelling