Learning
Legal Studies

Why Study Legal Studies?

VCE Legal Studies investigates the ways in which the law and the legal system relate to and serve individuals and the community. This knowledge is central to understanding the workings of contemporary Australian society.

Legal Studies examines the processes of law-making, dispute resolution and the administration of justice in Australia. Students develop an understanding of the impact of the legal system on the lives of citizens, and the implications of legal decisions and outcomes on Australian society. The study provides students with an appreciation of how individuals can be involved in decision-making within the legal system, encouraging civic engagement and helping them to become more informed and active citizens.

Students develop an understanding of the complexity of the law and the legal system and the challenges faced by our law-makers and dispute resolution bodies. They investigate the workings of the Australian legal system and undertake comparisons with international structures and procedures. Students are encouraged to question these systems and develop informed judgments about their effectiveness, as well as consider reforms to the law and the legal system.

Legal Studies also focuses on the development of skills. Students develop an ability to identify, collect and process information from a range of sources and engage in its interpretation and analysis. Skills for independent inquiry, critical thinking and legal reasoning to solve legal problems are also fostered. Students are required to apply legal reasoning and decision-making to contemporary cases and issues. They engage in analysis and evaluation of existing legal processes and form opinions about the operation of the legal system.

Structure

The study is made up of four units:

Unit 1: Criminal law in action

Unit 2: Issues in civil law

Unit 3: Law-making

Unit 4: Resolution and justice

Each unit deals with specific content and is designed to enable students to achieve a set of outcomes. Each outcome is described in terms of key knowledge and skills.

Outcomes
Outcomes define what students will know and be able to do as a result of undertaking the study.

Outcomes include a summary statement and the key knowledge and skills that underpin them. Only the summary statements have been reproduced below and must be read in conjunction with the key knowledge and skills published in the study design.

Unit 1 - Criminal law in action

The law influences all aspects of society – at home, at work and in the wider community. Laws are used by society to preserve social cohesion, and to ensure the protection of people from harm and from the infringement of their rights. These laws can be grouped according to their source and whether they are criminal or civil in nature. Following an overview of the law in general, this unit focuses on criminal law.

Students examine the need for laws in society. They investigate the key features of criminal law, how it is enforced and adjudicated and possible outcomes and impacts of crime. Through a consideration of contemporary cases and issues, students learn about different types of crimes and explore rights and responsibilities under criminal law. Students also consider the role of parliament and subordinate authorities in law-making, as well as the impact of the Victorian Charter of Rights and Responsibilities on law enforcement and adjudication in Victoria.

Students investigate the processes and procedures followed by courts in hearing and resolving criminal cases. They explore the main features and operations of criminal courts and consider the effectiveness of the criminal justice system in achieving justice.  

Outcome 1
On completion of this unit the student should be able to explain the need for effective laws and describe the main sources and types of law in society. 

Outcome 2
On completion of this unit the student should be able to explain the key principles and types of criminal law, apply the key principles to relevant cases, and discuss the impact of criminal activity on the individual and society.

Outcome 3
On completion of this unit the student should be able to describe the processes for the resolution of criminal cases, and discuss the capacity of these processes to achieve justice. 

Unit 2 - Issues in civil law

The civil law regulates the rights and responsibilities that exist between individuals, groups and organisations. If legal rights have been infringed, the aggrieved party may pursue legal action through the court system, through a tribunal, or by using one of the methods of dispute resolution.

Students examine the rights that are protected by civil law, as well as obligations that laws impose. They investigate types of civil laws and related cases and issues and develop an appreciation of the role of civil law in society and how it affects them as individuals.

The unit also focuses on the resolution of civil disputes through judicial determination and alternative methods in courts, tribunals and independent bodies. Students examine these methods of dispute resolution and evaluate their effectiveness.

Individuals can influence a change in the law by taking a case to court. Students focus on cases that have had a broader impact on the legal system and on the rights of individuals. Students develop an appreciation of the role played by such cases and undertake an analysis of relevant legal issues.  

Outcome 1
On completion of this unit the student should be able to explain the principles of civil law, law-making by courts, and elements of torts, and apply these to relevant cases. 

Outcome 2
On completion of this unit the student should be able to explain and evaluate the processes for the resolution of civil disputes. 

Outcome 3
On completion of this unit the student should be able to explain one or more area/s of civil law, and discuss the legal system’s capacity to respond to issues and disputes related to the selected area/s of law. 

Outcome 4
On completion of this unit the student should be able to describe an Australian case illustrating rights issues, and discuss the impact of the case on the legal system and the rights of individuals. 

Unit 3 - Law-making

In this unit students develop an understanding of the institutions that determine our laws, and their law-making powers and processes. They undertake an informed evaluation of the effectiveness of law-making bodies and examine the need for the law to keep up to date with changes in society.

Students develop an appreciation of the complex nature of law-making by investigating the key features and operation of parliament, and influences on law-making, with a focus on the role of the individual.

Central to the investigation of law-making is the role played by the Commonwealth Constitution. Students develop an understanding of the importance of the Constitution in their lives and on society as a whole, and undertake a comparative analysis with another country. They learn of the importance of the role played by the High Court of Australia in interpreting and enforcing the Constitution, and ensuring that parliaments do not act outside their areas of power nor infringe protected rights.

Students investigate the nature and importance of courts as law-makers and undertake an evaluation of their effectiveness as law-making bodies. They also investigate the relationships that exist between parliaments and courts.

Throughout this unit, students examine relevant cases to support their learning and apply legal principles to these cases.  

Outcome 1
On completion of this unit the student should be able to explain the structure and role of parliament, including its processes and effectiveness as a law-making body, describe why legal change is needed, and the means by which such change can be influenced. 

Outcome 2
On completion of this unit the student should be able to explain the role of the Commonwealth Constitution in defining law-making powers within a federal structure, analyse the means by which law-making powers may change, and evaluate the effectiveness of the Commonwealth Constitution in protecting human rights. 

Outcome 3
On completion of this unit the student should be able to describe the role and operation of courts in law-making, evaluate their effectiveness as law-making bodies and discuss their relationship with parliament. 

Unit 4 - Resolution and justice

The legal system provides mechanisms by which legal disputes of both a criminal and a civil nature can be resolved in a fair and just manner. Dispute resolution bodies such as courts and tribunals employ a range of means and processes that enables the resolution of legal disputes.

Students examine the institutions that adjudicate criminal cases and civil disputes. They also investigate methods of dispute resolution that can be used as an alternative to civil litigation. Students investigate the processes and procedures followed in courtrooms and develop an understanding of the adversary system of trial and the jury system, as well as pre-trial and post-trial procedures that operate in the Victorian legal system. Using the elements of an effective legal system, students consider the extent to which court processes and procedures contribute to the effective operation of the legal system. They also consider reforms or changes that could further improve its effective operation.

Throughout this unit, students examine current or recent cases to support their learning, and apply legal principles to these illustrative cases.  

Outcome 1
On completion of this unit the student should be able to describe and evaluate the effectiveness of institutions and methods for the determination of criminal cases and the resolution of civil disputes. 

Outcome 2
On completion of this unit the student should be able to explain the processes and procedures for the resolution of criminal cases and civil disputes, and evaluate their operation and application, and evaluate the effectiveness of the legal system.   

Assessment

Satisfactory Completion
Demonstrated achievement of the set of outcomes specified for the unit.

Levels of Achievement

Units 1 and 2

Individual school decision on levels of achievement. 

Units 3 and 4

The Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority will supervise the assessment of all students undertaking Units 3 and 4.

Percentage contributions to the study score in VCE Legal Studies are as follows:

Unit 3 School-assessed Coursework: 25 per cent
Unit 4 School-assessed Coursework: 25 per cent
End-of-year examination: 50 per cent.