Street Law

Subject LAWS50102 (2012)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2012.

Credit Points: 12.50
Level: 5 (Graduate/Postgraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject has the following teaching availabilities in 2012:

Semester 2, Parkville - Taught on campus.
Pre-teaching Period Start not applicable
Teaching Period not applicable
Assessment Period End not applicable
Last date to Self-Enrol not applicable
Census Date not applicable
Last date to Withdraw without fail not applicable


Timetable can be viewed here. For information about these dates, click here.
Time Commitment: Contact Hours: 36 hours.
Total Time Commitment:

144 hours.

Study Period Commencement:
Credit Points:
Semester 2
Semester 1
Semester 1


Recommended Background Knowledge:


Non Allowed Subjects:


Core Participation Requirements:

The Melbourne Law School welcomes applications from students with disabilities. It is University and Law School policy to take all reasonable steps to enable the participation of students with disabilities, and reasonable adjustments will be made to enhance a student’s participation in the School’s programs.

The inherent academic requirements for the study in the Melbourne Law School are:

  1. The ability to attend classes and actively engage in the analysis of complex materials and debate;
  2. The ability to read, analyse and comprehend complex written legal materials and complex interdisciplinary materials;
  3. The ability to clearly and independently communicate in writing a knowledge and application of legal principles and interdisciplinary materials and critically evaluate these;
  4. The ability to clearly and independently communicate orally a knowledge and application of legal principles and interdisciplinary materials and critically evaluate these;
  5. The ability to work independently and as a part of a group;
  6. The ability to present orally and in writing legal analysis to a professional standard.

Students must possess behavioural and social attributes that enable them to participate in a complex learning environment. Students are required to take responsibility for their own participation and learning. They also contribute to the learning of other students in collaborative learning environments, demonstrating interpersonal skills and an understanding of the needs of other students. Assessment may include the outcomes of tasks completed in collaboration with other students.

Students who feel their disability will prevent them from participating in tasks involving these inherent academic requirements are encouraged to contact the Disability Liaison Unit:


Ms Lucy Quinn


Melbourne Law School Student Centre
Tel: +61 3 8344 4475

Subject Overview:

Street Law is an innovative and unique course which involves JD students visiting high schools in Melbourne that are classified as 'low SES' and delivering three planned lessons on a range of legal topics and issues over the course of a semester. It provides the opportunity to develop and implement fundamental communication skills, namely, the ability to explain complex legal concepts and information to a non-lawyer, non specialist audience. Confidence in public speaking is an important attribute for a lawyer, as is an ability to explain the law clearly and practically to non-lawyers whether that takes the form of communication with clients, witnesses, and/or juries. In addition, the provision of community legal education is an increasingly important aspect of the work of lawyers in many parts of the profession, particularly the community legal sector.

Participation in Street Law will require students to develop a thorough understanding of the relevant areas of law to be taught, based on materials supplied by Melbourne Law School, which will range from broader topics such as the place of indigenous Australians in Australia's legal system, to issues of specific practical relevance to high school students, such as aspects of criminal law, employment or privacy and social networking. Students will liaise with teachers at their assigned school to identify the best method of adapting supplied materials to the particular curriculum needs and context of an individual school. The substantive knowledge will then need to be communicated in a clear and accessible manner in presentations to high school students of varying academic abilities and backgrounds. Students enrolled in this subject will receive instruction in relevant substantive areas from law school faculty, as well as specialist training in lesson planning and delivery from faculty at the University of Melbourne's Graduate School of Education. Students will also have the opportunity to work collaboratively in developing new materials which may either be used by individual schools and/or by Street Law at MLS in future years.

Longstanding experience of Street Law programs in the US (where it originated thirty years ago) and in other countries indicates that participation in a street law program develops a range of skills in law students including knowledge of and ability to use the law, interpersonal skills, autonomous learning, preparation and organisational skills, critical self-reflection and the ability to think on one's feet (1). Other research has found that lawyers who participated in a street law program reported that the experience had helped them to explain the law clearly and practically in their professional lives which had in turn increased their confidence and enhanced their public speaking skills (2).

The subject also provides students enrolled with the opportunity to contribute to the intellectual and social development of students from high schools classified as being 'low SES'. While one of the goals of a street law program is to impart substantive knowledge of relevant aspects of the law, it is also to promote in high school students skills in 'critical thinking and analysis of complex topics through the study of law and justice' (3). Another goal is to inspire students from non-traditional backgrounds to aspire to university study and possibly also the study of law.

Finally, participation in this course provides an opportunity for JD students to meet and liaise with experienced members of the legal profession, as JD students will be involved in organising a one-day practical skills workshop at Melbourne Law School at the end of semester in which high school students from the various schools will be invited to participate. Practical exercises might include for example witness examination and client interviewing. JD students will be required to liaise with leading members of the legal profession in Victoria who will assist in various roles on the day, and will then have the opportunity to observe and learn from barristers and judges as they assist in facilitating the practical exercises.

(1) Pinder, K, 'Street Law: Twenty Five Years and Counting' (1998) 27 Journal of Law and Education 211 at 226, 230-31.
(2) Katz, B, 'Practical law 101' (2001-2002) 30 Student Lawyer 24 at 26.
(3) Pinder, above n 1, at 212.


A student who has successfully completed Street Law will:

  • Have specialised knowledge of at least three substantive areas of private law relevant to young people;
  • Understand and have the ability to critically assess theories of teaching and lesson delivery;
  • Have a nuanced understanding of some of the challenges faced by young people in the Australian legal system;
  • Have specialised knowledge of an advanced area of public law, such as the role of indigenous Australians in our constitutional system;
  • Have an advanced and practical understanding of the challenges involved in effectively communicating complex legal concepts and ideas to a non-specialist audience;
  • Have an understanding of appropriate methods for identifying and developing written materials suitable for use to communicate to non-lawyers;
  • Have a sophisticated understanding of the importance of legal literacy; and
  • Have an understanding of community legal resources relevant to young people.


The assessment for Street Law has several components as follows:

Hurdle requirements:

  1. Attendance at all seminars conducted at MLS, as well as scheduled visits to assigned schools, is compulsory.
  2. Adequate administrative assistance in planning the one day practical skills workshop at end of semester.

Graded Assessment:

  1. Three written lesson plans, each submitted to lecturer prior to school presentation: 25%
  2. Assessment of 1 (out of 3) school presentations: 20%
  3. Collaborative development of new materials on an agreed topic for use either by high schools directly and/or in MLS’ Street Law course in the future, presented in the form of a substantive background paper of approximately 2,000 words: 30%
  4. Reflective essay integrating theoretical material on teaching method and theory with practical experience of lesson delivery: 1,500 words: 25%.

Prescribed Texts:

Specialist printed materials will be made available from Melbourne Law School.

Breadth Options:

This subject is not available as a breadth subject.

Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date
Generic Skills:

Students who successfully complete the Street Law program will have developed and demonstrated:

  • Sophisticated skills in oral communication, and an advanced ability to observe, evaluate, interpret and transmit an analysis of a discrete legal issue to a non-law audience;
  • An ability to identify the requirements of a specific audience and tailor a presentation so as to deliver an effective and accessible lesson in a specific area of law;
  • An advanced capacity for critical and independent thought and reflection, in particular to reflect critically on the relevance of specialised areas of law for young people in Victoria;
  • Advancement of the discipline of legal teaching theory and practice by integrating theoretical knowledge with practical experience in lesson delivery; and
  • The ability to learn from encountering different perspectives, and to recognise the extent to which students’ own beliefs, values and experiences inform their understanding of the purpose and relevance of public legal education and legal literacy.

NB: All students selected into this subject will need to complete a 'Working with Children' check.

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