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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 level four unit contributes to the development of:

  • advanced theoretical and technical knowledge in the field of legal practice
  • advanced, cognitive, technical and communication skills and the ability to apply these to complex legal problems
  • advanced research and writing skills.

This unit will enable students to develop a deep understanding of the role of advocacy in both the adversarial legal system and more broadly. Students will gain an understanding of the practical nature of advocacy and the skills which are required of advocates. In relation to legal practice, the course will include development of written case theory, case analysis, strategy, trial preparation and practice, presentation skills, ethics, legal argument, and communication skills. In relation to the law more broadly, students will develop an insight into the way in which the political and social system is regulated by law and legal structures and institutions, and how advocacy in a wider sense, aimed at changing the law, legal structures and practices, is crucially important. The course will benefit not only students who are interested in understanding the practice of barristers and solicitor advocates, but all those who work in fields where logic, persuasiveness are essential characteristics.

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.

Learning Outcome NumberLearning Outcome Description
LO1Understand concepts, theories and common practices in relation to advocacy and the adversarial system
LO2Explain ideas, concepts and practices utilised in advocacy and the adversarial system and in a broader social and political context
LO3Design and deliver effective advocacy strategies for use in different practical contexts
LO4Consider different uses of advocacy practice in contemporary Australia, critique these practices by different social and political entities and evaluate the consequences of the use of successful advocacy strategies by these entities


Topics will include: 

  1. Introduction to the history, art and philosophy of advocacy 
  2. Practical oral advocacy skills, including a basic understanding of classical rhetoric
  3. The nature of the adversarial court system 
  4. Etiquette and form in written and oral argument before courts, tribunals and other legal and quasi-legal bodies
  5. Case analysis and theory, and drafting written, oral and other arguments 
  6. Social and public advocacy, and the role of advocacy in the Australian political system 
  7. The parliament, medias and other messaging forums
  8. The role of Advocacy in politics and society; the use and mis-use of Advocacy; ethics in Advocacy

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

Mode: One three hour a week seminar, supplemented by electronic materials and where possible, supplemental lectures and activities, court and community and other visits. Emphasis on the weekly face-to-face seminar will be on practicing elements of advocacy  

Duration: On average 3 hours per week of in-person contact over 12 weeks or equivalent.  Students are expected to spend 150 hours in total for this unit (approximately 12 hours per week). The weekly number of hours, and the type of contact will vary. 

This level four elective unit allows students to demonstrate knowledge, skills and understanding in a specialist area of law using advanced research and advocacy skills.  

Our strategy is to encourage students to creatively engage with unit content and to learn and then practice advanced research and advocacy skills. 

The unit is designed to be delivered in intensive, weekly mode or online mode. We have taken a multimodal 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 Canvas. Students will engage in structured learning modes, but also be expected to reflect upon and develop their own learning approach.  

Assessment strategy and rationale

The assessment strategy is designed to assess knowledge, skills and understanding in advocacy practice, to develop research and to develop an understanding of how advocacy operates in society and different specialist forums within it.  

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 Outcomes

Appearance and argument – oral advocacy

Students are required to appear in person to make a basic argument for a client in a contentious court appearance. You will be required to demonstrate a knowledge of court etiquette, a thorough command of the instructions from your client g), a knowledge of the substantive area of law, a sound application of the law to the facts of the case, , and an ability to communicate fluently and persuasively with the Court.


LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4

Advocacy – analysis and report

Students will prepare and submit a written report on an aspect of advocacy practice in contemporary Australian society, demonstrating how advocacy is used and the ethical, social and political (and any other) impact that this advocacy practice has.


LO1, LO2, LO4

Appearance on appeal

Students are required to appear, on appeal from a lower court decision. Students will be allocated a client – appearing either for the appellant or respondent. The appellant’s task will be to demonstrate error of law in the decision below. The respondent’s task will be to show that the decision below was not affected by error. In either case, student’s duty is to make oral submissions in a lucid, succinct and persuasive fashion to the Court. Oral presentations will be accompanied by brief written arguments, adhering to defined court rules, and submitted prior to the oral proceeding.


LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4

Representative texts and references

Course materials available. 

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