Credit points


Campus offering

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LAWS104 Foundations of Law and Legal Research

Teaching organisation

4 hours per week for twelve weeks or equivalent.

Unit rationale, description and aim

This unit will introduce students to selected topics concerning the law and legal system of the United States with a particular emphasis on subjects on which students have learned Australian law and thus have the grounding necessary to draw meaningful comparisons between United States and Australian law. Individually and in small groups, students will be asked to prepare short legal memoranda and make class presentations on topics covered in the syllabus with some focus on the similarities and differences between the American and Australian system or law at issue.

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 - Critically discuss and appreciate contemporary legal issues arising in the United States and Australia (GA4, GA5, GA6, GA7) 

LO2 - Identify and critically apply domestic and American law relevant and applicable to a selected topic of focus (GA4, GA5, GA6, GA8, GA9) 

LO3 - Further develop legal research skills using a library and electronic resources to comprehensively describe the law in a selected topic of focus (GA6, GA7, GA8, GA9, GA10) 

LO4 - Communicate effectively to others the outcome of legal analysis and research (GA6, GA7, GA8, GA9) 

Graduate attributes

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 

GA8 - locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information 

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

GA10 - utilise information and communication and other relevant technologies effectively.


Topics will include: 

  1. Governmental Structure of the U.S. Legal System 
  2. The Role of the U.S. Courts and Judicial Review 
  3. Judicial Review of Agency Action and Administrative Law 
  4. Civil Procedure in the U.S. Courts and Jury Trials 
  5. American Constitutional Law: Individual Rights 
  6. American Criminal Law and Procedure 
  7. Basic Principles of American Contract, Tort, Property and Family Law 
  8. International Aspects of American Law 
  9. The American Legal Profession and Professional Responsibility 

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.  Students are expected to spend 150 hours in total for this unit. 


This level two elective unit allows students to demonstrate advanced knowledge, skills and understanding in a specialist area of law building on knowledge developed in the compulsory units.  


Our strategy is to encourage students to creatively engage with unit content and to apply Priestley knowledge in a specialist area of law.  


The unit is designed to be delivered in intensive, weekly mode 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, and to apply priestley knowledge to a specialist area of law.  


The assessment tasks for this unit are designed to demonstrate achievement of each of the learning outcomes listed.  

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Presentation up to 15 minutes oral or video presentation, requiring students to demonstrate their ability to research assigned topic and critically evaluate the relevant legal systems and laws  


LO1, LO3, LO4  

GA4, GA5, GA6, GA7, GA8, GA9, GA10 

Short Essay 1, 1500 words, to demonstrate ability to locate, read and evaluate judicial precedent and apply the conventions of legal analysis 


LO2, LO3, LO4 

GA4, GA5, GA6, GA7, GA8, GA9, GA10 

Short Essay 2, 1500 words, to demonstrate ability to research assigned topic and critically evaluate the relevant area of laws 


LO2, LO3, LO4 

GA4, GA5, GA6, GA7, GA8, GA9, GA10 

Representative texts and references

Benitez, Alberto Manuel, An Introduction to the United States Legal System: Cases and Comments (Carolina Academic Press, 2006) 


Burnham, William, Introduction to the Law and Legal System of the United States (West, 5th ed. 2011) 


Farnsworth, F. Allan, An Introduction to the Legal System of the United States (Oxford University Press, 4th ed. 2010) 


Fletcher, George P., American Law in a Global Context: the Basics (Oxford University Press, 2005) Hay, Peter, Law of the United States: An Overview (C.H. Beck. 2002) 


Johns, Margaret Z. & Rex R. Perschbacher, The United States Legal System: An Introduction (Carolina Academic Press, 2012) 


McAllin, Gerald Paul, Dan Rosen & John P. Stern, An Introduction to American Law (Carolina Academic Press, 2d ed. 2010) 


Melone, Albert P. & Allan Karnes, The American Legal System: Foundations, Processes, and Norms (Rowman & Littlefield, 2008) 


Scheb, John M. and Hemant Shawma, An Introduction to the American Legal System (Wolters, Kluwer 2013) 


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