LAWS3331/JURD7223 Legal Theory

Student: Chris Wong

Brief overview of the topics studied in this course:
Legal Theory (LT) is a course that can be studied as a compulsory (offered as a choice along with Theories of Law and Justice, and Law and Social Theory), or as a stand-alone elective. Often considered the most theory-based or jurisprudential of the three courses, LT covers a broad range of legal theory and philosophy and focuses on questions including the nature of legal analysis, the character of legal positivism, and the place of morality or natural justice in law. The theories of a number of prominent legal philosophers such as Immanuel Kant, Hans Kelsen, John Rawls and Ronald Dworkin are studied and interwoven with the broader themes of the course.

Course assessments and my thoughts about them:
The course does not feature any examinations, but has a flexible essay examination structure where the final mark is composed of a number of essays, the topics of which can be chosen during the course based on the topics covered in class. Additionally, there is a 20% maximisable class participation element that is only counted should it improve the final mark.

The reliance on essays suits the course subject matter well; it is theory based rather than focused on black letter law or a specific area of legal practice. Furthermore, the essays lend themselves to a deeper level of introspection and analysis of ideas compared to assessments taken under exam conditions. Lastly, being able to choose essays from a number of topics allows students to select topics that interest them most, allowing for better performance in assessments.

Interesting features of the course:
I personally found this course to be one of the most interesting and challenging courses that I have taken at law school. The course analyses the law from wholly original and innovative perspectives. It demands critical analysis of ideas, theories and concepts and cannot be excelled in by merely rote learning the material. The course is also able to cover a wide range of material and theories which enables it to stay relevant and interesting.

Any other thoughts and comments
Perhaps the most pertinent feature of legal theory is that it provides exposure to ideas and theories that are not found anywhere else in law school. Derrida’s deconstruction, Kant’s pure critique and Dworkin’s theories of natural justice are topics that will satisfy the intellectual craving from any law student with an interest in legal (or generally humanist) philosophy. On a final note, when I sat this course it was taught by a highly intelligent and passionate lecturer, Dr Marc de Leeuw. He is recommended for his ability to stimulate interest in the course material and his knowledge of legal theory.