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This subject is designed for second and third year JD students who are interested in learning about new ideas and directions in academic legal scholarship. It will expose students to current debates and introduce them to the process of producing scholarly work at a professional level. Students will learn how to critically and constructively assess academic works in progress, and will develop their own views about particular debates, topics, and methods of inquiry in legal scholarship. Students who are interested in pursuing academic careers in law are especially encouraged to enrol but this is not a prerequisite: students with any career objective will benefit from the unique educational experience that this subject provides.
Students will be expected to demonstrate skills and knowledge acquired in a series of ‘response papers’ that comment on/critique the works in progress under examination. Response papers will form the basis of assessment for the subject.
Students will meet with the subject coordinator nine times over the course of the semester. There are two kinds of meetings students will be required to attend: those held concurrently with the regularly scheduled meeting of the Legal Theory Workshop (‘on’ weeks); and Student Workshop meetings held during weeks when there is no Legal Theory Workshop meeting scheduled (‘off’ weeks).
The Legal Theory Workshop is Melbourne Law School’s works-in-progress discussion forum for faculty and research higher degree students, which meets approximately twice a month. Each workshop meeting features an unpublished article-length paper from a guest author, circulated and read in advance by workshop participants. Workshop guests regularly include distinguished legal scholars from across Australia and overseas. Topics vary depending on the guest’s particular area of scholarly expertise and interest, but cover a wide range of issues in legal scholarship across all sub-disciplines. Past guest paper topics have included:
- International legal obligations and indigenous peoples;
- Moral disagreement and legal justification;
- Private law and social illusion; and
- Religion and legal reasoning.
During ‘on’ weeks, students will meet for one hour before the Legal Theory Workshop meeting to discuss student response papers and the workshop guest's paper. After that hour is over, students will attend the 2 hour workshop meeting.
In addition, during two ‘off’ weeks, students will meet for one hour with the subject coordinator to discuss topics related to legal scholarship and academia. This may include meeting to discuss supplementary or background materials depending on guest paper topics and student interests.
Intended learning outcomes
A student who has successfully completed this subject will have an advanced understanding of, and be able to critically analyse, and reflect on:
- Current debates in legal scholarship (including who holds what position in those debates);
- The challenges of defining research topics or questions, and ways to approach those challenges;
- Different methods and approaches to researching a topic or question;
- Formulating hypotheses and developing strong and persuasive lines of argument;
- The process of writing and revising in light of feedback and comments; and
- The process of giving oral and written feedback and comments on the academic work of colleagues.
On completion of the subject students should have developed and demonstrated skills in the following areas:
- Reading: learning to identify key claims, arguments, and assumptions in scholarly work with precision;
- Oral communication: learning to speak with greater confidence and clarity in an academically rigorous environment, particularly on topics outside of one's expertise;
- Written communication: learning to write with greater analytical clarity and focus, and to express complicated ideas, to specialist and non-specialist legal audiences, more effectively and efficiently; and
- Analytical: learning to generate and evaluate complex ideas to form the basis of scholarly work, or to critique the scholarly work of others.
Last updated: 2 December 2019