LAW5443 - Language, communication and legal process - 2017

6 points, SCA Band 3, 0.125 EFTSL

Postgraduate - Unit

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



Quota applies

Postgraduate programs are based on a model of small group teaching and therefore class sizes need to be restricted.

Not offered in 2017


Legal process depends on language, oral and written. This unit focuses on the role and the effectiveness of language in the legal process.

Topics studied include:

  • the history and complexity of legal language;
  • language in statutes, contracts and other instruments and its interpretation;

the plain language movement;

  • the importance of language in investigation and preparation (police cautions and interviews, lawyer interviews, preparation of witness statements and affidavits);
  • language in courtroom and other proceedings (examination of witnesses;
  • communication with juries, oral and written submissions);
  • language in mediation;
  • communication with people without English or with low competency in English (interpreters, unrepresented litigants, cross-cultural communication, Aboriginal people, children); and
  • linguists as experts (authorship identification, voice recognition, phonetics, language identity, suicide notes and ransom notes etc, trade marks).


On completion of this course, students will:

  1. apply knowledge and understanding of the way in which legal language has developed, and of current developments, and use that knowledge and understanding creatively and with initiative in a variety of legal processes and work settings;
  2. investigate, analyse and synthesise complex information, problems, concepts and theories in relation to approaches to statutory construction and in relation to other forms of legal communication, such as interviews, transcripts, evidence, affidavits and arguments;
  3. evaluate critically the effectiveness of different forms of legal communication and language in varied adversarial and non-adversarial settings, including courts, tribunals and mediations, and with interpreters, non-standard English speakers and expert witnesses;
  4. recognise and evaluate critically issues of communication in judges' direction to juries, questioning of witnesses and oral and written arguments;
  5. conduct research and present original work in relation to legal language and communication based on knowledge of appropriate research principles; and
  6. use cognitive, technical and creative skills to generate and evaluate at an abstract level, and at a high level of competence, complex ideas and concepts relevant to legal language and methods, particularly in relation to: effective interviews of clients and witnesses; witness statements and affidavits; oral arguments; communications with unrepresented litigants; cross-cultural communication; vulnerable people in the legal process, including Aboriginal people and children; and the techniques and reasoning used in expert linguistic evidence.


One research assignment (3,750 words): 50%

One take-home examination (3,750 words): 50%

Workload requirements

24 contact hours per teaching period (either intensive, semi-intensive or semester long, depending on the Faculty resources, timetabling and requirements)

Chief examiner(s)

The Hon Professor Peter R A Gray AM Personal ProfilePersonal Profile (