Law tutor is having a bit of a difficult time at the moment, teaching Ilex level 6 Land law. The Ilex level 6 courses are, in my opinion, considerably more challenging than some of the LLB courses I have known. There is a need to know a lot of detail and, unlike internally set exams, where a fortunate student might just have gleaned a little insider information about the lecturer/examiner’s personal preferences, there’s no way of guessing which areas of the syllabus might be tested.
Not that this is a bad thing, of course. Indeed, I once worked for a wonderful man (a qualified barrister, so no personal bias involved) who, when I was about to move house, gave me his advice gleaned from many years of teaching Land law: “get yourself a Legal Executive”, he said, “they know more law”. Indeed I did, and his advice proved worthwhile. (The solicitor acting for the other party involved was later reported in the local paper as having been struck off whilst our Legal Executive is, I believe, still happily practising….but that’s another story!)
Anyway, I digress…back to the problem. Land Law. A lovely subject and a personal favourite, but it is so difficult to get people enthusiastic about it at the start. There is quite a bit of archaic historical stuff to start with tenures and estates, a brief moment of understandability with fixtures and fittings and then a whole lot of impenetrable stuff about formalities, those good old (misleading) land law maxims (see earlier post for rant on this subject) and the joys of registered and unregistered land. All perfectly lovely stuff (sad to say, I do mean that, I’m not being ironic….I love it), but not so easy when you don’t really know what an easement is, or a covenant, or how an interest under a trust arises. Of course, we could look at these first…..but then the complexities of registered and unregistered land would have to be added on top and somehow it wouldn’t feel right, so we must do it now.
So, what is the answer? I’m not sure that I really know. It would be nice to have a way of making it all fascinating and easy to relate to from the start but, if there’s a way, I’ve not found it. I’m obviously not alone in this difficulty. I recently read an article about the Land law lecturer who tried to make his lectures more interesting by turning up dressed as a different character (including James Bond and Prof Dumbledore), each week in order to add variety and increase attendance. (I’m not making it up, it’s a perfectly legitimate piece of research – http://www.ukcle.ac.uk/resources/teaching-and-learning-practices/landlaw/) So, I suppose the option is always open to try to enliven things by contacting my local branch of Berman and Nathans and turning up to class dressed as Goldilocks (Baby Bear is worried that Goldilocks’ has been using his bed for so long that she will claim adverse possession, or at least a prescriptive easement ….) However, in the interests of health, safety and sanity, not to mention the unthinkable horror that I might just look too old for the part, I think I’ll give that one a miss. What I can say is that studying Land law does get better…if you get those basics in place then it will all make so much more sense later, as the individual interests are studied. I can still remember the joy of the moment when, as a student, it all slotted neatly into place – and I’ve been hooked on Land law ever since.
To my students, then, and indeed to any other students of Land law, all I can say is ‘hang in there’! It will get better. (As I write this I could wish I hadn’t just been preparing material on Criminal law and the defence of mistake, and the fact that ‘a genuine and honestly held belief, even if unreasonable, can be a valid defence’. I do hope I don’t need one come exam time !)