1. Handbook
  2. Subjects
  3. Legal Theory
  4. Print

Legal Theory (LAWS50031)

Graduate coursework level 5Points: 12.5On Campus (Parkville)

You’re viewing the 2018 Handbook:
Or view archived Handbooks
You’re currently viewing the 2018 version of this subject


Year of offer2018
Subject levelGraduate coursework Level 5
Subject codeLAWS50031
Availability(Quotas apply)
Semester 2
FeesSubject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date

Legal Theory examines the nature of law, its role in society, and its relationship to morality and politics.

The questions we investigate have productive historical and conceptual traditions but no settled answers, and students will be encouraged to critically evaluate their own and others’ theories and arguments. To this end, the subject will examine a range of approaches, and assist students to further develop skills in critical analysis, reasoning and argument. The course enables students to develop and evaluate their thinking about a number of theoretical questions, drawing on a range of conceptual approaches to the study of law.

In any one year, the specific topics to be studied in Legal Theory will be drawn from jurisprudence; law, society and culture; authority, politics and rule of law; or law, morality and ethics. These topics will be explored in the context of the plural traditions of legal theory, and by way of examples from debates about the character and role of law in society, both nationally and internationally.

Intended learning outcomes

The aim of the subject is for students to develop their conceptual understanding of law and of law’s key role in society. This understanding will be developed through individual close reading and class discussion of legal theory texts, and through collaborative analysis of contemporary political, social and ethical issues within law. Students who successfully complete the subject will be able to:

  • Demonstrate foundational knowledge and understanding of the key theories and theoretical questions, topics and issues explored in the course;
  • Demonstrate the ability to independently read and comprehend theoretical texts, concepts and arguments;
  • Demonstrate the ability to explicate, analyse and evaluate a range of theories, arguments and perspectives, in order to engage with complex conceptual questions at an abstract level; and
  • Develop and communicate reasoned and justified arguments about questions and issues in legal theory.

Generic skills

Through completion of this subject students will have practised the following skills:

  • Close reading and analysis of a range of sources, including legal theory texts and interdisciplinary materials;
  • A capacity to engage in critical thinking, evaluation and independent thought at an abstract level;
  • A capacity to communicate knowledge and understanding of complex ideas in oral and written forms, to defined audiences;
  • The ability to write effectively in descriptive, analytical, critical and reasoned modes;
  • The ability to consider responses to unfamiliar or challenging ethical issues;
  • The ability to participate constructively as a member of a small class, with a high level of personal accountability; and
  • Intercultural awareness and understanding, demonstrated through respect for the considered views and values of others.

Eligibility and requirements


Successful completion of all the below subjects:

Code Name Teaching period Credit Points
LAWS50023 Legal Method and Reasoning
Summer Term
LAWS50024 Principles of Public Law
Semester 1
LAWS50026 Obligations
Semester 1



Non-allowed subjects


Core participation requirements

The University of Melbourne is committed to providing students with reasonable adjustments to assessment and participation under the Disability Standards for Education (2005), and the Assessment and Results Policy (MPF1326). Students are expected to meet the core participation requirements for their course. These can be viewed under Entry and Participation Requirements for the course outlines in the Handbook.

Further details on how to seek academic adjustments can be found on the Student Equity and Disability Support website: http://services.unimelb.edu.au/student-equity/home


Additional details

  • 2,000-word essay or equivalent assignment due in accordance with coordinated assessment as set by the lecturer (45%);
  • 2-hour exam (45%);
  • Class participation (10%).

The due date of the above assessment will be available to students via the Assessment Schedule on the LMS Community.

Quotas apply to this subject

Dates & times

  • Semester 2
    Principal coordinatorShaun Mcveigh
    Mode of deliveryOn Campus — Parkville
    Contact hours36 hours
    Total time commitment144 hours
    Teaching period23 July 2018 to 21 October 2018
    Last self-enrol date 3 August 2018
    Census date31 August 2018
    Last date to withdraw without fail21 September 2018
    Assessment period ends16 November 2018

    Semester 2 contact information

    Email: law-aso@unimelb.edu.au
    Phone: +61 3 8344 4475
    Website: law.unimelb.edu.au

  • November
    Principal coordinatorSarah Biddulph
    Mode of deliveryOn Campus — Parkville
    Contact hours36 hours
    Total time commitment144 hours
    Pre teaching start date12 November 2018
    Pre teaching requirementsStudents are expected to access and review the Reading Guide that will be available from the LMS subject page and the subject materials provided by the subject coordinator, which will be available from Melbourne Law School. Refer to the Reading Guide for confirmation of which resources need to be read and what other preparation is required before the teaching period commences.
    Teaching period21 November 2018 to 5 December 2018
    Last self-enrol date31 March 2018
    Census date30 November 2018
    Last date to withdraw without fail21 December 2018
    Assessment period ends18 January 2019

    November contact information

    Email: law-aso@unimelb.edu.au
    Phone: +61 3 8344 4475
    Website: law.unimelb.edu.au

Additional delivery details

November offering

November Legal Theory is quota restricted to 140 students (40 per stream). Students will be approved to enter November Legal Theory on a first-in basis, based on their date/time of enrolling into the subject. Stop 1 will maintain a waitlist for this offering once the quota has been met.

Once the "Last date to Self-Enrol" has past, students can apply for November Legal Theory by completing an Enrolment Variation form.

Further information

  • Texts

    Prescribed texts

    • You may be required to consult a textbook based on your selected stream in this subject;
    • Specialist printed materials will also be made available from the Melbourne Law School.
  • Available through the Community Access Program

    About the Community Access Program (CAP)

    This subject is available through the Community Access Program (also called Single Subject Studies) which allows you to enrol in single subjects offered by the University of Melbourne, without the commitment required to complete a whole degree.

    Entry requirements including prerequisites may apply. Please refer to the CAP applications page for further information.

    Additional information for this subject

    If required, please contact law-admissions@unimelb.edu.au for subject coordinator approval.

Last updated: 23 January 2019