Credit points


Campus offering

No unit offerings are currently available for this unit


LAWS104 Foundations of Law and Legal Research

Teaching organisation

The Rule of Law, and access to legal advice, are the basis of free, democratic, and just societies which promote personal dignity, thriving communities, and the Common Good. Law graduates working in legal practice, in business, in government, and in the community play an essential role in promoting and upholding the Rule of Law in Australia and across the world. The Bachelor of Laws degree is an accredited degree for admission as a legal practitioner in Australia.

Unit rationale, description and aim

This specified unit supports the LAWP100 Pro Bono Legal Professional Experience 1, which includes a 80-hour Pro Bono placement requirement for ACU law students.

As some pro bono placement organisations prefer students to have more developed legal skills, students may undertake Community Legal Engagement: Pro Bono at any time during their degree (subject to availability) provided they have completed LAWS104.

The unit forms part of Australian Catholic University Core Curriculum which comprises three units:

  1. UNCC100: Self and Community: Exploring the Anatomy of Modern Society;
  2. UNCC300: Justice and Change in a Global World; and
  3. A Community Engagement Unit specific to each University program.

Units (a) and (b) are common to most undergraduate programs. Unit (c) serves to draw the Core Curriculum experience together and offer students an opportunity to live the Core Curriculum in action.

This unit falls within the third category mentioned above. It situates students' Pro Bono Placements within an understanding of the University Mission and calls on students to reflect on their Pro Bono Placement and the University Mission in a timely manner.

It furthers the Mission of Australian Catholic University and its commitment to the pursuit of knowledge, the dignity of the human person and the common good whilst engaging the Catholic intellectual tradition to bring a distinct perspective to the study of law and the pursuit of a career within the legal profession.

This unit will provide students with an opportunity to reflect upon the ability of the law to respond to the needs of the marginalised and disadvantaged members of our society and the need for reform of the law or of its administration.

The unit will also assist students to develop and reflect upon the values of collaboration, equality, mutual respect and commitment to justice.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

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

LO1 - Demonstrate ability to work with pro bono partners and to explain the mission, values and functions of the organisations or bodies with which they have engaged, especially insofar as they relate to the provision of legal assistance to those who are marginalised or disadvantaged and to the promotion of social justice, human dignity and the common good (GA1, GA2, GA3, GA5)

LO2 - Critically evaluate areas of law where reform of the law or of its administration is needed in order to better serve the demands of social justice, human dignity and the common good (GA1, GA3, GA4, GA5, GA6, GA7)

LO3 - Apply the skills and knowledge they have gained during their studies and pro bono/legal professional experience to develop proposals to provide better legal assistance to those who are marginalised or disadvantaged and to promote social justice, human dignity and the common good (GA1, GA2, GA3, GA4, GA5, GA6, GA7, GA9)

Graduate attributes

GA1 - demonstrate respect for the dignity of each individual and for human diversity 

GA2 - recognise their responsibility to the common good, the environment and society 

GA3 - apply ethical perspectives in informed decision making

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

GA5 - demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession 

GA6 - solve problems in a variety of settings taking local and international perspectives into account

GA7 - work both autonomously and collaboratively 

GA9 - demonstrate effective communication in oral and written English language and visual media 


Topics will include: 

  1. Understanding the history and nature of pro bono legal work in Australia, 
  2. Negotiating pro bono placements – the responsibilities of the parties;  
  3. Review of legal skills;(1)  
  4. Assessment of the ACU Mission and future legal practice;  
  5. Research of potential fields (2) and contexts (3) for future legal practice;  
  6. Practical legal skills – developing your technique:  
  7. communicating effectively: orally and in writing ; 
  8. interviewing: listening and questioning; 
  9. interviewing: advising; 
  10. keeping out of trouble; 
  11. writing and drafting; 
  12. negotiating, mediating and early dispute resolution; 
  13. problem solving; 
  14. advocacy; 
  15. intellectual technology and law; 
  16. managing risks for clients; 
  17. managing work and time; and 
  18. resilience and wellbeing in practice; 
  19. Legal practice and community engagement; 
  20. Unmet legal needs in the Australian and international communities; and 
  21. Preparation for legal practice. 

(1) That is, skills gained during the study of law including, but not limited to, pro bono/legal professional experience.

(2) For example: advocacy, bankruptcy and insolvency law, children’s law, civil rights law, corporate and securities law, charity/not-for-profit law, criminal law, digital media and internet law, education law, employment and labour law, environmental and natural resources law, family and juvenile law, health law, intellectual property law, international law, legal malpractice and professional responsibilities law, mergers and acquisitions law, migration law, personal in juries law, real estate law, sports and entertainment law, tax law and wills and estates law.

(3) For example: barrister, community/not-for-profit practice, private practice (city), private practice (rural), government practice (national) and government practice (international).

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

Mode: Lectures, tutorials, electronic consultation, library tasks and presentations or Online lectures and activities.

Duration:3 hours per week over 12 weeks or equivalent.

This level two compulsory law unit allows students to demonstrate knowledge, skills and understanding in a specialist area of law to meet the requirements of accreditation.

Our strategy is to encourage students to creatively engage with unit content and to apply fundamental legal knowledge, skills and understandings to address legal problems.

The unit is designed to be delivered in intensive, weekly or online mode We have taken a blended learning approach to provide accessibility and flexibility to our students and a student focused approach that increases depth of learning and engagement through actively utilising LEO.

Assessment strategy and rationale

The assessment strategy is designed to assess knowledge, skills and understanding in a specialist area of law required for accreditation.

The assessment tasks for this unit are designed to demonstrate achievement of each of the learning outcomes listed. The number and weighting of assessments has been approved under 5.2 of the ACU Assessment Policy.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Assessment 1: Hurdle Task

This assessment task consists of the completion of the Working with Children, Young People and Vulnerable Adults online module. This task requires students to consider human diversity and the dignity of each individual and complete the module and upload the certificate of completion.

Submission Type: Individual

Assessment Method: Online module



GA1, GA2, GA3, GA4, GA5, GA6, GA7, GA9

Assessment 2: Tutorial participation

This assessment task consists of presenting and sharing ideas in the tutorials. This task requires students to regularly contribute in the tutorial discussion relating to their learnings from the lecture topics.

Submission Type: Individual

Assessment Method: Reflective Presentation


LO1, LO3  

GA1, GA2, GA3, GA4, GA5, GA6, GA7, GA9

Assessment 3: Group Presentation

Students will be allocated into groups (3-4 people each group), and assigned with an area of pro bono legal practice to research and present their findings and recommendations (eg refugee, or aboriginal people etc)

to the class. It requires students to critically evaluate an area of pro bono legal practice that is needed in order to better serve the demands of social justice, human dignity and the common good.

Submission Type: Group presentation (including slides/notes)

Assessment Method: Research presentation 



GA1, GA3, GA4, GA5, GA6, GA7

Assessment 4: Annotated Reflective Statement

This assessment task consists of a 1500-word reflective statement in which students reflect upon new knowledge, experiences, insights introduced in the unit. It requires students to demonstrate a set of career competencies through reflection on the pro bono work lawyers are doing for the community. 

Submission Type: Individual 

Assessment Method: Reflective Statement


LO1, LO3  

GA1, GA2, GA3, GA4, GA5, GA6, GA7, GA9

Representative texts and references

Australian Catholic University: Mission, Vision and Values,_vision_and_values  

Australasian Legal Information Institute (AUSTLII)   

Campbell, S., Hyams, R., and Evans, A., Practical Legal Skills: Developing your Clinical Technique. (Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 4th Edition, 2014) 

Corker, J., Community Engagement in Australian Legal Education: Some Contemporary Issues  

Dal Pont, GE, Wolski, B., Macdonald, R. and Clark-Dickson, D., Lawyers: Roles, Skills and Responsibilities (Thomson Reuters, 3rd Edition, 2016) 

Keyzer, P., Kenworthy, A., and Wilson, G., Community Engagement in Contemporary Legal Education: Pro Bono, Clinical Legal Education and Service-learning (Halstead Press, 2009)

Lamb, A., and Littrich, J., Lawyers in Australia (The Federation Press, 3rd Edition, 2015) 

Ross, Y., Ethics in Law: Lawyers' Responsibility and Accountability in Australia (LexisNexis, 6th Edition, 2013) 

Schwabel, D., How to Make the Most out of Internships (2011)   

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