You made it to UNSW Law – congratulations!
The study of law is about changing the way you think about the world and the laws that govern it. It isn’t merely about memorising the rules but about challenging them. Getting settled into this new learning environment might take some time, but with the help of this guide, your peers and teachers, we think you’ll enjoy the journey as much as the destination.
In the first year of a Law dual degree, your law workload is one course per term, each of five hours per week. The University (and the Law School) expects you to do two hours study for every one hour of class. At UNSW Law, we expect you to do that before you come to class.
The workload for your other degree will depend on what you are studying (i.e. Science may include lab time in addition to classes). Check with the faculty for more information. If you are a transfer student, you will usually be doing Introducing Law and Justice, and Crime and the Criminal Process in the first term. This means that each week you will have 10 hours class time plus the preparation for those classes. The advantage of this system is that when it comes to exam time, there is very little extra study to be done, because you have been doing it throughout the year.
If you are a Juris Doctor (JD) student, your first-year load includes Introducing Law and Justice, Crime and the Criminal Process, and Principles of Private Law, (Term 1), Torts, Principles of Public Law, and Criminal Laws (Term 2), and Contracts, and Lawyers Ethics and Justice (Term 3). The load for JD students is very heavy, but by being immersed in the law, you learn very quickly. Also, you aren’t juggling this with a second degree, as is the case for undergraduate Law.
Most Law courses have multiple assessment tasks. A typical pattern of assessment would be divided into a take-home assignment (40%), an examination under open book conditions (50%) and a class participation mark (10%). The latter is for class participation rather than performance. It is generally a measure of your level of engagement with the class rather than your brilliance at answering questions, so it is less threatening than it might seem, and it is a valuable learning tool.
The calibre of our students is very high and consequently the failure rate is very low – about 1–2%. Withdrawal from the year is more common than failure, as some people might decide Law isn’t right for them. If a student appears to be having difficulties, the lecturer will ask to see you to determine whether your performance is due to an academic problem, lack of motivation, family or personal problems, or something else. Where there seems to be an academic problem, we will direct the student to the Peer Tutor Program or the Learning Centre, or whatever is appropriate. Where there are other issues affecting the student’s work, they may be directed to additional support services and/or advised to withdraw without failure for the year and come back next year.
The Peer Tutor Program is for first-year students to help them adjust to studying Law. Senior Law students are trained by the Learning Centre and paid by UNSW to provide free assistance to new students. After each assessment task, lecturers identify students who might benefit from a peer tutor. Generally, students spend about six weeks seeing their peer tutor with two or three other students, and after that time they will often then form an independent study group as their academic confidence grows. About 30–50% of first-year students benefit from the program each year.
Generally, the first person a student would talk to is their lecturer or, if it is a course-related matter, the convenor of the course. If you need to see someone else, the Director of First Year Studies oversees the operation of the first-year program and facilitates the introduction of students to law studies generally. You can take difficulties relating to course credit and your general academic program to the Undergraduate Studies Convenor. Student Services on Level 2 of the Law Building can also help answer your questions, or direct you to someone who can.
International Student Academic Advisors
Here at UNSW Law, we have International Student Support Advisors who are academic members of staff and your first port of call for any academic issues or concerns you might have. The Advisors also convene workshops throughout the year on a range of topics such as preparing for class, class participation and preparing for your assessments.
Have a question? Contact the International Student Academic Advisors: