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Author Topic: Legal Studies - Guide & Review  (Read 2423 times)  Share 

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Glasses

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Legal Studies - Guide & Review
« on: November 20, 2016, 03:05:48 pm »
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Disclaimer:
Everything expressed here is purely my opinion, so please keep this in mind while reading.

Whether you are reading this as a current Legal Studies student, or a year 10/11 choosing your subjects, I want to make it clear that I loved Legal as a subject, so hopefully you will too! I personally found Legal to be extremely interesting, and Legal certainly is a subject that rewards students who put in the effort to apply and understand what they’re learning; rather than those who rely on rote learning and memorisation. That being said, there is a fair bit of information that you need to learn and remember for Legal, however one of the most significant and important aspects of Legal is the ability to analyse, discuss and evaluate the various elements of the legal system.

Basically I've structured this guide in accordance with each area of study (AOS) for Legal, and have provided some general information, a small review and advice/tips under each AOS; in addition to some general advice/tips for Legal as a whole.

Legal Studies is divided into the following units and areas of study:

Unit 3: Law-making

AOS 1 – Parliament and the Citizen
General Information:
-   This area of study is basically focused on the way in which Parliaments creates law, as well as who is involved in this process, why this occurs and how this happens.

Review:
-   This area of study can be a little dry for some students, and this outcome does involve the need to memorise some procedures (such as the process of a law through Parliament); but it is very important and forms a bit of a basis for other outcomes.

Tips and Advice:
-   Try to tie the various key knowledge points within this outcome (which relate), back to the principles of the Australian Parliamentary System.
-   When learning strengths and weaknesses of parliament as a law-making body, it really helps to find something that links each strength to a respective weakness; and even an additional strength or weakness that manages to overcome one of the corresponding strengths or weaknesses. E.g. – One strength of parliament is… however a corresponding weakness of this is that… nevertheless, this is overcome to some extent/this weakness can also be strength, because…
In this way, your evaluation will seem more in-depth and informed than a basic ‘one strength is… one weakness is…” discussion.
-   Contemporary examples are awesome and fundamental for this outcome in particular. (E.g. – examples of influences on legislative change); as these show an assessor that you can apply and really understand what you’re writing about.
-   Don’t forget that you need to be able to evaluate the means by which individuals and groups influence legislative change, not just explain these.
-   It is extraordinarily unlikely that you’ll be asked questions such as “how many members are there in the Senate or House of Representatives?” so don’t waste time memorising this kind of information.
-   Don’t forget that, being a Constitutional Monarchy, the Crown is a part of the Commonwealth and Victorian Parliaments.
-   Don’t worry about learning every reason why laws may need to change, you’ll never be asked to explain all of the different reasons; so I’d stick to a maximum of 4 with examples for each. (It’s good to know 4, just in case your presented with a question which says “other than x reason, outline…”)

AOS 2 – The Constitution and the Protection of Rights
General Information:
-   As the title of this area of study suggests, this outcome focuses on the Commonwealth Constitution, the means through which the Constitution protects rights and ways of changing the division of law-making powers (with an emphasis on high court cases as examples, referenda and a comparison of Australia’s approach to the protection of rights and that the approach of another country [Canada, New Zealand, South Africa or the USA]).

Review:
-   Whilst this area of study does have a fair bit of content, most students tend to find it really interesting and informative.

Tips and Advice:
-   Don’t confuse the various examples you’re required to learn for this outcome; especially the different high court cases. Remember, two of these cases are focused on the division of law-making power between the Commonwealth and State Parliaments, whilst the other is focused on the Constitutional protection of rights.
-   Whilst it isn’t explicitly asked for, it’s good to know an example of the referral of powers, such as the terrorism example; as the use of examples (especially for the higher-mark questions) can make your answers stand out from the rest.
-   You don’t need to know every single restriction imposed on the Commonwealth and State Parliaments by the Constitution, instead I’d stick to learning 3-4 each (3 each should probably suffice).
-   When comparing the Australian constitutional approach to the protection of rights with that of another country, make sure your focus is on comparing the approaches of the countries, not to actual rights themselves. E.g. – You shouldn’t be stating “the US Constitution provides for the right to bear arms, whilst the Australian Constitution does not have this right.” This is a comparison of actual rights, not the approaches adopted by the countries.
-   When it comes to evaluating the means by which the Commonwealth Constitution protects rights, you need to be able to evaluate each way individually. That is, you should be able to evaluate structural protections, express rights and implied rights separately from one another; although it is also important to be able to tie these all together to give a wider evaluation of the protection of rights through the Constitution.
-   Do not confuse sections 109 and 128 of the Constitution; and as these are both specified in the actual study design, you do need to remember what these sections mean.
-   If you know the section of the Constitution that relates to what you’re writing about, and if you have time, it can be beneficial to write this down, as it can strengthen your answer.
-   When it comes to explaining how a referendum or high court case has impacted the division of law-making powers/relates to the Constitutional protection of rights, do not waste your time going into detail on the facts of each case/referendum – focus on the significance and impact of the example.

AOS 3 – Role of the Courts in Law-making
General Information:
-   This outcome ties in pretty nicely with AOS 1, with the key focus being the way in which law can be created through the courts.

Review:
-   This is quite an interesting outcome, and the way in which it relates to AOS 1 is particularly good for building on your knowledge; however some students do find some aspects of this outcome tricky at first (particularly the doctrine of precedent).

Tips and Advice:
-   It is particularly important not to look at this area of study in isolation; so think about how this AOS relates to other outcomes.
-   Using Latin terms within this area of study can be particularly advantageous mark-wise, so where possible, try to make use of these (but only if you properly understand what they mean)!
-   Whilst it is not explicitly stated in the study design for this outcome, you need to have an understanding of the court hierarchy when learning about the role of the courts in law-making.
-   A lot of textbooks detail the ways the courts can conduct statutory interpretation; such as using intrinsic and extrinsic materials and using the purposive and literal approaches. However, none of this is actually stated in the study design, so it is extraordinarily unlikely that you’ll be given a question asking for an explanation of how the courts interpret statues. Instead, focus on the reasons for statutory interpretation, and the effects of statutory interpretation.
-   Don’t waste your time learning every single effect of, and reason for statutory interpretation. Instead, narrow this down to 3-4 reasons (with examples preferably) and 3-4 effects (with examples preferably).
-   In both the 2015 and 2016 exams, VCAA have interrelated this area of study with others (specifically Unit 3 AOS 1 and Unit 4 AOS 2), so when it comes to evaluating law-making through the courts, also look at how the various strengths and weaknesses impact other aspects of the legal system (i.e. – those you learn about in other outcomes).
-   Importantly, keep in mind that the overriding focus of this outcome is the degree to which, and how the courts create law; if you are getting confused with a topic, simplify things by linking it back to this idea.
-   When learning strengths and weaknesses of the courts in law-making, it really helps to find something that links each strength to a respective weakness; and even an additional strength or weakness that manages to overcome one of the corresponding strengths or weaknesses. E.g. – One strength of the courts in creating law is… however a corresponding weakness of this is that… nevertheless, this is overcome to some extent/this weakness can also be strength, because…
In this way, your evaluation will seem more in-depth and informed than a basic ‘one strength is… one weakness is…” discussion.

Unit 4: Resolution and Justice

AOS 1 – Dispute Resolution Methods
General Information:
-   There are a few different elements of this outcome, with a focus on dispute resolution bodies (including VCAT and the courts [including the court hierarchy and jurisdictions]), and methods.

Review:
-   There is a fair bit of memorisation required for this outcome, particularly when it comes to learning the jurisdictions of the courts; however all in all, it’s not too bad of an outcome, and is relatively straightforward for most students.

Tips and Advice:
-   Do not confuse methods of dispute resolution (mediation, conciliation, arbitration and judicial determination) with dispute resolution bodies (VCAT and the courts).
-   Spend a bit of time making sure you understand the original and appellate jurisdictions of the courts; whilst there is a fair bit of information to remember here, it is quite important.
-   Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that one particular dispute resolution method or body (especially VCAT) is infallible; if you have a look at past examiner’s reports, there’s a lot of useful information regarding the limitations of VCAT, especially in recent years (and given the contemporary nature of this information, it will definitely enhance answers).
-   It is important that you are able to evaluate mediation, conciliation, arbitration and judicial determination independently. Some textbooks only contain strengths and weaknesses of judicial determination and methods that are not judicial determination (commonly referred to as alternative dispute resolution methods); however you need to know the strengths and weaknesses of these methods individually, whilst also being able to compare them with one another.
-   Keep in mind that whilst mediation and conciliation are not legally binding in nature, they generally result in terms of settlement being reached, which is a legally binding and enforceable contract between the parties.
-   When it comes to explaining reasons for a court hierarchy, do not confuse administrative convenience and specialisation; this seems to be a common error.
-   When learning strengths and weaknesses of the various dispute resolution methods and bodies, it really helps to find something that links each strength to a respective weakness; and even an additional strength or weakness that manages to overcome one of the corresponding strengths or weaknesses.
In this way, your evaluation will seem more in-depth and informed than a basic ‘one strength is… one weakness is…” discussion.

AOS 2 – Court Processes and Procedures, and Engaging in Justice
General Information:
-   Of all the outcomes in legal studies, this one is by far the longest and has many different aspects that you need to learn and understand.

Review:
-   Given the size of this outcome, it’s commonly broken down into two parts by teachers, which makes it a bit easier to understand for students. Nevertheless, it can be quite confusing at times, but it is still pretty interesting. That being said, it’s possible that students will feel a bit burnt out by the time they reach this outcome, and due to the length of this area of study, you may feel a bit intimidated and over legal studies – but it really isn’t that bad because a lot of the key knowledge points within this outcome tie in with one another.

Tips and Advice:
-   Make sure that you are able to link virtually every aspect of this area of study to the elements of an effective legal system; and even though a question may not explicitly ask for you to link an evaluation back to these elements, doing so can be very beneficial mark-wise.
-   Make sure that you are able to compare the various features of the adversary and inquisitorial systems of trial, and when compiling your summary notes, it would most definitely be worth using a table to compare the two approaches.
-   When learning possible reforms to the adversary system of trial, it’s generally a good idea to look at how different features of the inquisitorial system can be adopted in the adversary system.
-   When learning strengths and weaknesses of the adversary system of trial, the jury system, various criminal and civil pre-trial procedures, etc., it really helps to find something that links each strength to a respective weakness; and even an additional strength or weakness that manages to overcome one of the corresponding strengths or weaknesses.
In this way, your evaluation will seem more in-depth and informed than a basic ‘one strength is… one weakness is…” discussion.
-   Keep in mind that, whilst it is important to be able to explain what the various pre-trial procedures, civil remedies and criminal sanctions (as outlined in the study design) are, it is critical that you also understand the purposes of these.
-   Do not confuse ‘recent changes and recommendations for change in the legal system’ with ‘recent changes in the law’.
-   Given that there are a number of different reforms, alternatives, recent changes and recommendations to know within this outcome, do not waste your time trying to remember an abundance of these. Therefore, I would aim for 2-3 possible reforms to the adversary system, 2 recent changes and 2 recommendations for change in the legal system, and 2-3 reforms and 2-3 alternatives to the jury system; and in some instances, you may find that possible reforms to the adversary system and possible reforms and alternatives to the jury system will suffice for your recommendations for change in the legal system.
-   With regards to the reforms and alternatives to the jury system, as well as possible reforms to the adversary system, it is important that you are able to discuss these reforms and alternatives to some extent (that is, provide some strengths and weaknesses for these).
-   Do not confuse ‘reforms’ to the jury system with ‘alternatives’ to the jury system; reforms are more mild/moderate adjustments to the jury system, whilst alternatives are those, which would significantly change the operation of the jury system.
-   Ensure that you are able to discuss the extent to which civil remedies, criminal sanctions, criminal pre-trial procedures and civil pre-trial procedures can achieve their specific purposes; some textbooks contain little information regarding whether or not these purposes are actually achieved (especially when it comes to civil remedies and criminal sanctions) – but your ability to discuss this is a key skill.
-   Especially for this outcome, do not stray from the study design. Given the amount of content within this area of study, it is important that you do not learn anything more than what is required of you. This does not mean that you shouldn’t learn a few things here and there, particularly when different points you come across can strengthen your evaluations; but it isn’t worth learning absolutely everything. E.g. – When learning about criminal pre-trial procedures, the study design explicitly states “committal hearings”, not “committal proceedings”, so don’t spend excessive amounts of time learning about the different aspects of committal proceedings.

General Advice:
-   Tables should be your best friend in legal studies!! Especially when it comes to evaluating and comparing!
-   The study design is published for a reason, so make sure that you take advantage of all the information it contains.
-   Do not neglect the key skills outlined in the study design – these are of great importance, and at times, VCAA or a teacher can simply turn a key skill into an examination question.
-   Examiner’s reports contain a great deal of useful information, and in many cases, you can use the content from these reports to form the basis of your study notes. As well as this, examiner’s reports are great for identifying common student errors.
-   Especially in recent years, VCAA have linked various outcomes to one another in exam questions; so it may be worth identifying what connections there are between the different areas of study. E.g. – Law-making through Parliament (3.1) and law-making through the courts (3.3), the doctrine of precedent (3.3) and the adversary system of trial (4.2), etc.
-   When answering questions, it is fundamental that you don’t stray from what the question is asking you, especially for the lower-mark questions that don’t require a discussion or evaluation.
-   Questions with the task word “discuss” require that you elaborate on strengths and weaknesses, and not just give an explanation of something.
-   If you have time, try to provide an example of what you are talking about in your answer. Whilst examples shouldn’t form the basis of your answer (especially when the question does not ask for one), they can enhance your answer and make up for a mediocre explanation.
-   Keep in mind that, especially in recent years, VCAA have put a focus on the ability of students to apply their understanding of information and evaluate things. Therefore, rote learning will not get you very far in Legal.

I'll probably keeping adding to this, but if you have any questions relating to this guide, feel free to post your questions here.
« Last Edit: November 21, 2016, 09:15:01 pm by Glasses »
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Re: Legal Studies - Guide & Review
« Reply #1 on: November 20, 2016, 09:04:10 pm »
+3
W O W this is awesome.

I tip my non-existent hat to you, Mr. Glasses sir.
VCE 2014: HHD, Bio, English, T&T, Methods

I love you, AN. Keep being cool. <3

Glasses

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Re: Legal Studies - Guide & Review
« Reply #2 on: November 20, 2016, 09:56:30 pm »
+1
W O W this is awesome.

I tip my non-existent hat to you, Mr. Glasses sir.

*Bows*
2015 - 2016 (VCE): Psychology, Religion & Society, Legal Studies, Business Management, Literature and English
2017 - Present: Bachelor of Laws (Honours)/Arts (Criminology & Psychology) @ Monash University

Aug 2016 - Sep 2018: VIC State Moderator