Legal Language

Subject LAWS20008 (2015)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2015.

Credit Points: 12.5
Level: 2 (Undergraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject has the following teaching availabilities in 2015:

Semester 1, Parkville - Taught on campus.
Pre-teaching Period Start not applicable
Teaching Period 02-Mar-2015 to 31-May-2015
Assessment Period End 26-Jun-2015
Last date to Self-Enrol 13-Mar-2015
Census Date 31-Mar-2015
Last date to Withdraw without fail 08-May-2015

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

144 hours.

Prerequisites: None
Corequisites: None
Recommended Background Knowledge: None
Non Allowed Subjects: None
Core Participation Requirements:

For the purposes of considering requests for Reasonable Adjustments under the Disability Standards for Education (Cwth 2005), and Students Experiencing Academic Disadvantage Policy, academic requirements for this subject are articulated in the Subject Description, Subject Objectives, Generic Skills, and Assessment Requirements of this entry.

The University is dedicated to providing support to those with special requirements. Further details on the disability support scheme can be found at the Disability Liaison Unit website:


Assoc Prof Peter Rush


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

Subject Overview:

This subject explores the cultural and institutional languages of law. Law talks about itself in the language of rights and duties, authority and justice, property and persons and things. Our examples will focus on the ways in which this language is given institutional form (eg in courts or in administration), and cultural expression (eg film and literature). Our guiding questions are: how are the languages of law spoken,by whom, where and with what effects?

The topics will be:

  • Legislation: classifications of legal action and its contestation;
  • Judgment: forms of reason and precedent, writing and literature;
  • Testimony: witness statements and interrogation in legal institutions and cultures.

Specific case studies of the topics will include a selection of the following:

  • The duties of the lawyer and the rights of victims;
  • Witnesses, experts and the forms of evidence;
  • The languages of rule, sovereignty and the administrative state;
  • Celluloid lawyers and the ethics of the legal profession;
  • Media representation of legal action and litigiousness;
  • Persons and the language of statutes;
  • Indigenous peoples and legal cultures;
  • Order and the conduct of legal proceedings.
Learning Outcomes:

A student who has successfully completed this subject should have an understanding of the foundations of law, how it is expressed and how it is represented in contemporary culture. Specifically, the student will be able to reflect on and evaluate:

  • Interdisciplinary approaches to law;
  • Legal processes, procedures and methods;
  • The forms and idioms of legislation, judgment and testimony;
  • The legal and cultural role of the lawyer;
  • The legal and cultural expression of rights, duties and the demands of justice;
  • The distinction between private and public, domestic and international law.

In addition, a student will have obtained:

  • An appreciation of the distinctiveness of legal practices;
  • A knowledge of the basic divisions of legal subject areas;
  • In depth knowledge of at least one case study discussed in the subject;
  • The ability to analyse legal problems from a variety of perspectives;
  • The capacity to conduct independent research about law.
  • Case note analysis (1,000 words) (25%);
  • Research essay (3,000 words) (75%).
Prescribed Texts:

Specialist printed materials will be available from the University Co-Op Bookshop.

Breadth Options:

This subject potentially can be taken as a breadth subject component for the following courses:

You should visit learn more about breadth subjects and read the breadth requirements for your degree, and should discuss your choice with your student adviser, before deciding on your subjects.

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

On completion of the subject the student should have:

  • Capacity for self-directed learning, specifically the ability to plan work and use time effectively;
  • Cognitive and analytical skills;
  • Ability to speak about complex ideas in a clear and cogent manner;
  • An awareness of diversity and plurality;
  • Write essays which develop structured argumentation;
  • Capacity to judge the worth of their own arguments.
Related Majors/Minors/Specialisations: Law and Justice

Download PDF version.