LAW4647 - Great books of the common law - 2017

6 points, SCA Band 3, 0.125 EFTSL

Undergraduate - Unit

Refer to the specific census and withdrawal dates for the semester(s) in which this unit is offered.



Not offered in 2017


This unit begins with a detailed discussion of several well-known cases from the common law of Contract. The goal is to notice the gaps between the rules and the ultimate decisions. The course continues with a discussion of Max Weber's classical statement of how legal questions are decided in the civil law and his suggestion that adjudication in the common law is irrational. The unit then attempts to respond to Weber's challenge by focusing on the classical discussion of this question by some of the great theorists of the common law, together with contemporary writers who contribute to the same discussion. Students will read and discuss chapters by several writers, including Blackstone, Holmes, Maitland, Cardozo, Llewellyn, Hart and Sachs, Gilmore, Posner, Unger, Frug, Williams, and Fisher. Emphasis will be on discussion both the discussion among the theorists themselves and our own discussion with the competing traditions that we discover in the reading.


On completion of this unit, a student should be able to:

  • understand the civil law critique of how cases are decided at common law

notice when there are gaps between the announced rules and the case results

  • understand the different conceptions of case adjudication elaborated by the great thinkers of the common law
  • use the differing conceptions productively when making legal argument
  • elaborate an original theory of how cases should be decided.


Class participation: 10%

Presentation: 10%

Research paper (1,500 words): 30%

Take home examination: 50%.

Workload requirements

Minimum total expected workload to achieve the learning outcomes for this unit is 144 hours per semester typically comprising a mixture of scheduled learning activities and independent study. The unit requires on average three/four hours of scheduled activities per week. Scheduled activities may include a combination of teacher directed learning, peer directed learning and online engagement.

See also Unit timetable information

Chief examiner(s)