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LAW2224 Theories of Law

Semester 2, 2022 Toowoomba On-campus
Units : 1
Faculty or Section : Faculty of Business, Education, Law and Arts
School or Department : School of Law and Justice
Grading basis : Graded
Course fee schedule : https://www.unisq.edu.au/current-students/administration/fees/fee-schedules


Examiner: Vito Breda


Pre-requisite: LAW1111 and LAW1112 and (LAW1114 or HIS1115)


This is a core course in the Bachelor of Laws. 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.

Course learning outcomes

On successful completion of this course, students should be able to:

  1. Demonstrate an understanding of a coherent body of knowledge [relevant to theories of law], and underlying principles and concepts; the broader contexts within which legal issues arise [in legal philosophy] and of the principles and values of justice and of ethical practice in lawyers’ roles (PO1/TLO1).
  2. Demonstrate an ability to recognise and reflect upon the professional responsibilities of lawyers in promoting justice and in service to the community (PO2/TLO2).
  3. Identify and articulate legal issues [related to theories of law]; [comprehend legal and other materials including philosophical and sociological analyses of law]; engage in critical analysis and make a reasoned choice amongst alternatives; and think creatively in approaching legal issues and generating appropriate responses (PO3/TLO3).
  4. Demonstrate the intellectual and practical skills needed to identify research in an ethical manner, evaluate and synthesise factual, legal and policy issues [relevant to theories of law] (PO4/TLO4).
  5. Communicate in ways that are effective, appropriate and persuasive for legal and non-legal audiences (PO5/TLO5).


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

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

Student workload expectations

To do well in this subject, students are expected to commit approximately 10 hours per week including class contact hours, independent study, and all assessment tasks. If you are undertaking additional activities, which may include placements and residential schools, the weekly workload hours may vary.

Assessment details

Approach Type Description Group
Weighting (%) Course learning outcomes
Assignments Written Essay 1 No 35 1,3,4,5
Assignments Written Essay 2 No 35 1,3,4,5
Assignments Written Essay 3 No 30 1,2,3,4,5
Date printed 10 February 2023