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Private Law: Theoretical Perspectives (LAWS50124)

Graduate coursework level 5Points: 12.5Not available in 2018

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Year of offerNot available in 2018
Subject levelGraduate coursework Level 5
Subject codeLAWS50124
FeesSubject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date

The subject will introduce and engage critically with a number of theoretical perspectives on private law, ie, the law that governs interactions between citizens of the state. With reference to different rules, principles, doctrines and remedies in the law of torts, contract law, the law of unjust enrichment, property law, and the law of equity and trusts, the subject will consider some key theoretical writings on private law and reflect on some debates of contemporary interest in private law theory.

In any given year, topics will vary, but may include some or all of the following:

  • Law and economics insights into private law;
  • Corrective justice theory and private law;
  • Civil recourse theory and private law;
  • Perfectionism, value pluralism and private law;
  • Liberal, libertarian and communitarian perspectives on private law;
  • Is it possible to draw a boundary between public and private law?;
  • The place of equity in contemporary private law;
  • How, if at all, should private law be classified?;
  • Theoretical perspectives on the practices of promising and contracting; and
  • Private law and interpersonal trust.

Intended learning outcomes

A student who has successfully completed this subject will:

  • Have an advanced and critical understanding of some key theoretical perspectives on private law, and an integrated understanding of the similarities and distinctions in those various perspectives;
  • Have an advanced knowledge of some classical and contemporary debates and issues in private law theory;
  • Be able to deploy analytical and evaluative skills in thinking independently about problems relating to private law rules, principles, doctrines and remedies from a theoretical perspective; and
  • Be able in a self-directed way to research, develop, and express in written form, theoretical arguments about questions relating to private law doctrine and practice.

Generic skills

A student who has successfully completed the subject will demonstrate a high-level ability to:

  • Identify, locate, reflect critically on and evaluate relevant research materials, including cases, other legal materials, and philosophical writings;
  • Formulate, develop, manage and realise, from inception to completion, a sustained research essay engaging with theoretical literature as well as legal rules, principles, doctrines and/or remedies;
  • Express, in written form, reflections and arguments of a philosophical character touching on topics relating to private law, with both legal and philosophical audiences in mind; and
  • Understand the significance of method to research in legal theory, and formulate and evaluate methodological approaches to the study of private law theory.

Eligibility and requirements


Successful completion of all the below subjects:

Code Name Teaching period Credit Points
LAWS50023 Legal Method and Reasoning
Summer Term
LAWS50025 Torts
Semester 1
LAWS50026 Obligations
Semester 1
LAWS50027 Dispute Resolution
Semester 1
LAWS50028 Constitutional Law
Semester 2
LAWS50029 Contracts
Semester 2
LAWS50030 Property
Semester 1
LAWS50031 Legal Theory
Semester 2
LAWS50033 Trusts
Semester 1



Non-allowed subjects

Students who have completed the LAWS50039 Legal Research topic "Private Law: Theory and Practice" may not be allowed to take this subject or may be allowed to take this subject with subject coordinator permission.

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

  • A 750 word abstract and annotated bibliography (15%);
  • A 6,000 word research essay (85%).

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

Not available in 2018

Time commitment details

144 hours

Additional delivery details

This subject has a quota.

Further information

  • Texts

    Prescribed texts

    • Cases, books, journal articles and other materials, which will be available via the resources (including the online resources) of the Law Library;
    • Specialist printed materials may be made available from the Melbourne Law School.
  • Available to Study Abroad and/or Study Exchange Students

    This subject is available to students studying at the University from eligible overseas institutions on exchange and study abroad. Students are required to satisfy any listed requirements, such as pre- and co-requisites, for enrolment in the subject.

Last updated: 11 September 2019