Legal Theory Workshop

Subject LAWS50114 (2014)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2014.

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

This subject is not offered in 2014.

Time Commitment: Contact Hours: 23 hours.
Total Time Commitment:

72 hours.

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


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:


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

Subject Overview:

This subject is intended for advanced JD students who are interested in pursuing academic careers in law and who want to learn more about legal scholarship and academic legal research. It will expose students to current debates in legal scholarship 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 develop their own ideas about particular debates, topics, and methods of inquiry in legal scholarship. 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 9 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 MLS Legal Theory Workshop ("on" weeks); and Student Workshop meetings held during weeks when there is no Legal Theory Workshop meeting scheduled ("off" weeks).

The MLS Legal Theory Workshop is a works-in-progress discussion forum for faculty and research higher degree students, which meets twice a month. Each Workshop meeting features an unpublished article 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 and her or his particular area of scholarly expertise and interest, but cover a wide range of issues in legal theory, broadly defined. Past guest paper topics have included:

  • International legal obligations and indigenous peoples;
  • Moral disagreement and legal justification; and
  • The effects of religion on legal reasoning.

During "on" weeks, students will meet for one hour before the MLS 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.

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.
  1. Participation and attendance (hurdle requirement);
  2. Response papers (100%): students will be required to prepare and submit 6 response papers of 1,200 - 1,500 words.
Prescribed Texts:


Breadth Options:

This subject is not available as a breadth subject.

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

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.

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