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LAW5224 Advanced Theories of Law

Semester 2, 2019 Online
Short Description: Advanced Theories of Law
Units : 1
Faculty or Section : Faculty of Business, Education, Law and Arts
School or Department : School of Law and Justice
Student contribution band : Band 3
ASCED code : 090900 - Law
Grading basis : Graded


Examiner: Vito Breda


Pre-requisite: LAW5114 or LAW5502 or HIS5115

Other requisites

Students are required to have access to a personal computer, e-mail capabilities and Internet access to UConnect. Current details of computer requirements can be found at


This is a core course in the Juris Doctor. It ensures that, in accordance with threshold learning outcomes, students learn broader contexts of law. These include political, social and philosophical contexts in which legal issues arise.

The course provides students with opportunities to learn theories of what law is and what law should be. It includes the learning of theories of how law changes in relation to society, and theories of justice.


While most law courses submerge students in the technical rules of various aspects of the law, this course places the law in the context of philosophies which critique the basis of those rules. Students will study various bodies of thought that have in the past influenced legal thinking, including legal positivism, natural law, feminist, realist and critical theories of law, and liberal, social and radical political theories. Against the background of classical and modern natural law theories, consideration will also be given to philosophies of virtue and character - particularly as applicable to lawyers.


On completion of this course, students should have covered material and assessment to enable the following areas to be developed:

  1. knowledge of:
    1. international and comparative contexts of the social and historical development of law, and gender perspectives on the law
    2. broader contexts within which legal issues arise, namely social, historical, philosophical and economic contexts in which legal issues arise
    3. the principles and values of justice and of ethical practice in lawyers’ roles
    4. critical and normative theories of law: including positivist, natural law (including virtue ethics), feminist, realist and critical theories of law; and liberal, social and radical political theories
  2. ethics and professional responsibility:
    1. an ability to recognise and reflect upon the professional responsibilities of lawyers in promoting justice and in service to the community
    2. awareness of the social and economic consequences of law and lawyers’ work, together with the attendant professional obligation to practise in ways which are respectful to the interests of clients, communities, economies and the environment
  3. thinking skills:
    1. identify and articulate philosophical explanations and critiques of legal issues
    2. comprehend philosophical materials
    3. apply philosophical reasoning and research to generate appropriate responses to legal issues
    4. engage in critical analysis and make a reasoned choice amongst philosophical and moral alternatives
    5. think creatively in approaching legal issues and generating appropriate responses, including the ability to explore new philosophical ways to address contemporary social problems through the application of philosophical techniques, insights and understandings
  4. research skills in demonstrating the intellectual and practical skills needed to identify, research in an ethical manner, evaluate and synthesise relevant factual, legal and policy issues
  5. communication in ways that are effective, appropriate and persuasive for legal and non-legal audiences, including demonstrating skills in oral communication and argument
  6. self-management by learning and working independently, including demonstrating management, planning and organisation skills and self-directed engagement and initiative in the study of philosophies of law.


Description Weighting(%)
1. Introduction to legal theory 5.00
2. British legal positivism 10.00
3. Germanic legal positivism 10.00
4. American legal realism 10.00
5. Natural law – classical and Christian 5.00
6. Natural law - modern 5.00
7. Modern virtue ethics in legal practice 10.00
8. Social theories of law and justice 10.00
9. Therapeutic jurisprudence 5.00
10. Evolutionary theories of law 10.00
11. Liberalism and rights 10.00
12. Postmodern and feminist theories of law and justice. 10.00

Text and materials required to be purchased or accessed

ALL textbooks and materials available to be purchased can be sourced from USQ's Online Bookshop (unless otherwise stated). (

Please contact us for alternative purchase options from USQ Bookshop. (

Ratnapala, S 2017, Jurisprudence, 3rd edn, Cambridge University Press, Melbourne, Victoria.

Reference materials

Reference materials are materials that, if accessed by students, may improve their knowledge and understanding of the material in the course and enrich their learning experience.
Bix, B 2015, Jurisprudence: theory and context, 7th edn, Sweet & Maxwell, London.
Crowe, J 2014, Legal theory, 2nd edn, Lawbook Co, Pyrmont, New South Wales.
Davies, M 2017, Asking the law question, 4th edn, Lawbook Co, Pyrmont, New South Wales.
Freeman, MDA 2014, Lloyd's introduction to jurisprudence, 9th edn, Sweet & Maxwell, London.
Wacks, R 2017, Understanding jurisprudence: an introduction to legal theory, 5th edn, Oxford University Press, Oxford, England.

Student workload expectations

Activity Hours
Assessments 80.00
Directed Study 39.00
Private Study 46.00

Assessment details

Description Marks out of Wtg (%) Due Date Notes
ESSAY 1 35 35 20 Aug 2019
ESSAY 2 35 35 15 Oct 2019
COURSE ENGAGEMENT 30 30 22 Oct 2019

Important assessment information

  1. Attendance requirements:
    There are no attendance requirements for this course. However, it is the students' responsibility to study all material provided to them or required to be accessed by them to maximise their chance of meeting the objectives of the course and to be informed of course-related activities and administration.

  2. Requirements for students to complete each assessment item satisfactorily:
    To satisfactorily complete an individual assessment item a student must achieve at least 50% of the marks. (Depending upon the requirements in Statement 4 below, students may not have to satisfactorily complete each assessment item to receive a passing grade in this course.)

  3. Penalties for late submission of required work:
    Students should refer to the Assessment Procedure (point 4.2.4)

  4. Requirements for student to be awarded a passing grade in the course:
    To be assured of receiving a passing grade a student must achieve at least 50% of the total weighted marks available for the course.

  5. Method used to combine assessment results to attain final grade:
    The final grades for students will be assigned on the basis of the aggregate of the weighted marks obtained for each of the summative assessment items in the course.

  6. Examination information:
    There is no examination in this course.

  7. Examination period when Deferred/Supplementary examinations will be held:
    Not applicable.

  8. University Student Policies:
    Students should read the USQ policies: Definitions, Assessment and Student Academic Misconduct to avoid actions which might contravene University policies and practices. These policies can be found at

Assessment notes

  1. Referencing in assignments:
    Students studying this course as part of a Juris Doctor must use the Australian Guide to Legal Citation (AGLC) style. Students who are not enrolled in the Juris Doctor may use either Harvard (AGPS) or the Australian Guide to Legal Citation (AGLC) in their assignments to format details of the information sources they have cited in their work. For AGLC style guide enquiries, consult the AGLC manual from the USQ Library's referencing guide at, or contact the Law librarian. The Harvard (AGPS) style to be used is defined by the USQ Library's referencing guide at