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A Lack of Consideration: Dealing with the Challenges of Group Work

Papers on a table

Admittedly, there are fewer group assignments in law than in other degrees, but even if you’ve been able to avoid tutorial group presentations, chances are you’ve found yourself mooting with a careless co-counsel or participating in team negotiations lacking teamwork. So, what do you do when a fellow student is being uncooperative?

Before concluding that they have been unjustly enriched at your expense, contemplate what might be the reason. While the presumption is usually that the cause is laziness, that presumption is rebuttable. To put it in terms of unconscionability, ensure they don’t have a ‘special disability’. They might be under a lot of stress, and/or have other issues that prevent them from fully contributing to your group presentation/assignment/research project. Where this is the case, negotiate some concessions. It would be lacking in good faith for you to hold them liable for non-performance.

You may find that the presumption cannot be rebutted, and that they really are voluntarily taking benefits at your own, or others’ expense. Such a triviality would probably not give rise to an actual claim in restitution; however, if you discuss the issue with your teacher, you may be entitled to a form of quantum meruit by way of individual marks proportionate to the effort each member has put in. What you should not do is mirror their actions. It’s not worth dropping your standards merely so they receive a poor grade. Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face.

Or what if you’re the slacker? You won’t have a court entering judgment against you, but your grades will probably reflect your lack of effort. If the assignment receives a good grade because other members of the group compensated for the failure of consideration on your part, you’ve likely missed out on some valuable knowledge that stemmed from the assignment and disadvantaged yourself for the final exam.

So, if you ever find yourself in a group work situation, remember these tips... I’ll spare you from another contract law reference because I’m so considerate :)

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