Module Catalogue 2023/24

LAW3032 : Legal Theory

  • Offered for Year: 2023/24
  • Module Leader(s): Professor Richard Mullender
  • Lecturer: Dr Joshua Jowitt, Dr Emilia Mickiewicz
  • Owning School: Newcastle Law School
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0
Pre Requisites
Pre Requisite Comment

Either LAW1221 or LAW1220 & LAW1240

Co Requisites
Co Requisite Comment



To provide an understanding of the leading schools of legal theory, and to appreciate their understanding within wider intellectual movements. To develop the particular theoretical, critical and interdisciplinary skills that are appropriate to legal study. To develop the various skills listed below. To encourage students to contemplate post-graduate work in this field. This aim reflects the fact that, over many years, students taking this course have gone on to study legal theory as post-graduates.

Outline Of Syllabus

Introduction to Legal Theory.

Natural Law (the Classical Tradition and Procedural Natural Law)

Legal Positivism

American Legal Realism

Ronald Dworkin

Alan Gewirth’s Contribution to Secular Natural Law and its Practical Applications

Law, Power, and Political Philosophy (examining John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, Carl Schmitt, and Michel Foucault)

Learning Outcomes

Intended Knowledge Outcomes

Students will be able to demonstrate a thorough knowledge and understanding of the important schools of legal theory.

The course will include the study of natural law theories (with close analysis of Gewirth’s contribution to secular natural law), legal positivism, American legal realism, Ronald Dworkin’s contribution to legal theory, Carl Schmitt’s contribution to legal theory, and relevant contributions to political philosophy from, inter alios, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Michel Foucault, and G.W.F. Hegel.

Students will examine issues in legal theory, including debates that concern the relationship between law and morality, the application of secular natural law theory to particular matters of practical concern (e.g., the limits of state sovereignty), and the relationship between law (as an institution that claims authority) and power.

Students will acquire familiarity with a number of jurisprudential media, including treatises and articles on legal and political theory.

Intended Skill Outcomes

1. Ability to identify the central arguments in legal theory

2. Ability to engage in inter-textual study and research

3. Ability to structure argument and to convey a contextual understanding of contentious legal issues

4. Ability to identify and to pursue particular issues for jurisprudential research

More General Skills

1. Ability to identify and order issues by relevance and importance

2. Ability to synthesize materials from different sources

3. Ability to discern merit in intellectual argumentation

4. Ability to make reasoned choices between alternative interpretations and arguments

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture221:0022:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion681:0068:00N/A
Structured Guided LearningLecture materials21:002:00Two recorded lectures and accompanying lecture material (text) published on Canvas
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching41:004:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDrop-in/surgery41:004:00Q&A on Zoom.
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study1100:00100:00N/A
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

The use of lecturing as the principle teaching method is justified in terms of providing an overarching narrative coherence to the course. It is necessary in order to secure the requisite knowledge base needed in order to underpin stated learning outcomes. Seminars are used in order to effect the development of a critical and contextual understanding of the various theories of law covered in the lectures. Private study is directed so as to supplement the development of seminar skill, to confirm the establishment of the basic knowledge base, and to concentrate research skills in particular areas of individual study.

Reading Lists

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written exercise2M1002500 words
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

A research-based essay assignment is the most appropriate means by which to assess the development skills (in the areas of analysis, argument, research), whilst also making it possible for students to demonstrate the development of necessary subject-specific knowledge bases.


Past Exam Papers

General Notes


Disclaimer: The information contained within the Module Catalogue relates to the 2023/24 academic year. In accordance with University Terms and Conditions, the University makes all reasonable efforts to deliver the modules as described. Modules may be amended on an annual basis to take account of changing staff expertise, developments in the discipline, the requirements of external bodies and partners, and student feedback. Module information for the 2024/25 entry will be published here in early-April 2024. Queries about information in the Module Catalogue should in the first instance be addressed to your School Office.