Legal Interpretation

Unit code: LLW1004 | Study level: Undergraduate
(Generally, 1 credit = 10 hours of classes and independent study.)
City Campus
Online Real Time
BLB1114 - Legal Research Methods
(Or equivalent to be determined by unit coordinator)


Familiarity with key concepts and theories of law, and the ability to interpret legislation, are essential skills in understanding law and legal systems. This unit of study will examine the philosophy of law in historical and contemporary context. Natural law and legal positivist theories are explored with reference to other disciplines (such as history, philosophy, theology, sociology and political science). The unit introduces further approaches to legal theory including legal realism, sociological legal theories, historical and anthropological theories, and critical legal theories. Foundational legal concepts of rights, duties, justice and punishment are considered in theoretical and normative terms. This course will provide an advanced study of the rules and principles governing statutory interpretation and will consider how statutes have been read and are being read by the Australian courts. The concepts, interpretative criteria, and the techniques of the common law are examined with reference to federal and state legislation. This unit will enable students to interpret statutes and to engage critically with the main arguments that characterise modern interpretive practice. By focusing on the theoretical issues underlying law and legal systems, and the theoretical and technical basis of statutory interpretation, the unit seeks to provide a guide which students can return to for reference throughout their course and to develop skills that can be built upon in subsequent units of study.

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this unit, students will be able to:

  1. Critique leading legal theories (especially in the western legal tradition), justify their relevance to our society and contextualise the law’s connection with cognate disciplines;
  2. Analyse the theoretical underpinnings of law and legal systems already studied and map the theoretical basis of future legal study and practice;
  3. Identify, research and synthesise theoretical knowledge and apply legal theory to justify arguments on the theoretical and normative character of law;
  4. Understand, explain and distinguish the historical and contemporary principles of statutory interpretation;
  5. Apply statutory interpretive criteria and the techniques of the common law in practical applications of legislation;
  6. Critically review the theoretical concepts underlying the approaches to, and presumptions of, statutory interpretation.


For Melbourne campuses

Assessment type: Test
Grade: 20%
Online Quiz x 2
Assessment type: Assignment
Grade: 40%
Research Essay
Assessment type: Assignment
Grade: 40%
Letter of Advice

Required reading

Understanding Jurisprudence
Raymond Wacks| Oxford University Press
Statutory Interpretation
Michelle Sanson| Oxford University Press

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