The Sydney Juris Doctor (JD) - Units of study

Compulsory Curriculum

Leah Allen, Juris Doctor

“The quality of the teaching in the Juris Doctor program at Sydney Law School is incredible. Routinely, teachers have been involved in leading cases and give first-hand knowledge of the development of the law. In my experience, the JD is a place to make lifelong friends and build an excellent foundation for a career in law.”

Leah Allen, Juris Doctor

The majority of the Sydney JD degree consists of compulsory study for the purposes of recognition for the profession and practice of law. It meets the academic requirements for the purposes of practising law in Australia and may also be recognised overseas. The compulsory areas of law you must study to meet these requirements are:

  • Administrative law
  • Civil procedure
  • Company law
  • Contracts
  • Criminal law and procedure
  • Equity
  • Evidence
  • Federal and state constitutional law
  • Professional conduct (including basic trust accounting)
  • Property
  • Torts

In addition, Sydney Law School is the only Australian law school where you are able to complete two compulsory units of study in international law - Private International Law and Public International Law. Each compulsory unit of study is summarised below in sequential order to give you a snapshot of its content:

Foundations of Law

The very first unit that you must study, this unit provides you with a foundation core for the study of law. It gives you an overview of the Australian legal system, alongside an introduction to the skills of legal reasoning and analysis. You will cover topics including:

  1. the development of judge made and statute law, with a particular focus on English and Australian legal history;
  2. the relationship between courts and parliament;
  3. the role and function of courts, tribunals and other forms of dispute resolution;
  4. understanding and interrogating principles of judicial reasoning and statutory interpretation;
  5. the relationship between law, government and politics;
  6. what are rights in Australian law, where do they come from and where are they going;
  7. the development and relevance of international law.
Legal Research

This is a compulsory component of Foundations of Law. The aim of the first part of the course is to introduce you to finding and citing primary and secondary legal materials and introduce you to legal research techniques. These are skills which are essential for a law student and which you will be required to apply in other units. The second part of the unit covers advanced searching techniques and the use of, Westlaw and other complex commercial databases. The purpose of this part of the unit is to further develop the skills you will need as a law student and to introduce you to the legal research skills you will need after graduation.


In this unit, you will examine the concept of liability for civil wrongs. You will learn about the function and scope of modern tort law, as well as the rationale and utility of its governing principles. You will cover topics including: the relationship between torts and other branches of common law such as contract and criminal law; the role of fault as the principal basis of liability; the historical development of the concept of trespass; the concept of intentional injury; defences to trespass, including consent, necessity and contributory negligence; the concept of compensation for personal injuries; defences to negligence.

Civil & Criminal Procedure

This unit of study aims to introduce you to civil and criminal procedure. It is concerned with the procedures relating to civil dispute resolution and criminal justice which are separate to the substantive hearing. You will consider the features of an adversarial system of justice and its impact on process. You will explore Recent reforms to the adversarial system of litigation. The civil dispute resolution part of the unit will cover alternative dispute resolution, the procedures for commencing a civil action, case management, gathering evidence and the rules of privilege. Criminal process will be explored by reference to crime and society, police powers, bail and sentencing. The course focuses on practical examples with consideration of ethics, and contextual and theoretical perspectives.


Contract law provides the legal background for transactions involving the supply of goods and services and is, arguably the most significant means by which the ownership of property is transferred from one person to another. It vitally affects all members of the community and a thorough knowledge of contract law is essential to all practising lawyers. In the context of the law curriculum as a whole, Contracts provides background which is assumed knowledge in many other units. The aims of the course are composite in nature. You will examine the rules that regulate the creation, terms, performance, breach and discharge of a contract. Remedies and factors that may vitiate a contract such as misrepresentation are dealt with in Torts and Contracts II. The central aim of the course is to provide you with an understanding of the basic principles of contract law and how those principles are applied in practice to solve problems. You will develop the skills of rules based reasoning and case law analysis. A second aim is to provide you with an opportunity to critically evaluate and make normative judgments about the operation of the law.

Criminal Law

In this unit, you will examine the general principles of criminal law in context as they operate in the state of New South Wales, Australia. You will receive a critical analysis of these laws and their contemporary social and political relevance. In addition, you will consider a range of theoretical literature as well as critical commentary, with a focus on conventional wisdom concerning the operation of criminal justice. You will cover topics including: the process of proof in a criminal prosecution and its defence; the determination of criminal liability; the contradictions presented by the application of legal principle to complex social problems.

Torts & Contracts II

This unit aims to provide you with an appreciation of the integrated study of the law of obligations and remedies. It is an advanced unit and you examine the impact of related statutory liability and remedies. You will cover topics including:

  1. Concurrent, proportionate and vicarious liability;
  2. Tortious interference with goods
  3. Liability for misrepresentation in tort, contract and under statute (eg statutory duties, s 52 Trade Practices Act 1974 (Cth));
  4. Liability for economic loss in tort, including some comparative study
  5. Detailed consideration of causation and remoteness of damage in tort and contract;
  6. Damages for breach of contract;
  7. Unfair dealing in contracts and vitiating factors: mistake, misrepresentation, duress, undue influence, unconscionable conduct. This topic includes a study of equitable principles and statutory rights.
Public International Law

This unit provides you with a general introduction to the general problems, sources and techniques of public international law. You will survey the fundamental rules and principles of public international law through an examination of a variety of topics that include: the nature, function and scope of public international law; the sources of public international law; the law of treaties including principles of treaty interpretation; the relationship between public international law and municipal law; the extent of state jurisdiction; state responsibility, including diplomatic protection, nationality of claims and exhaustion of local remedies; immunity from state jurisdiction; regulation of the use of force and dispute settlement.

Public Law

This unit is designed to introduce you to the principles and structures that underpin constitutional and administrative law in Australia. It is broader than either of these subjects because its focus is on generic issues of governance and accountability. The unit begins with a study of representative and responsible government under the Australian constitutional system. Also considered is the potential role of the judiciary in applying a bill or charter of rights to both the executive and the legislature. The unit then examines the nature of judicial power and the extent to which the separation of judicial power provides protections for individuals. The focus then moves to the executive: the composition of the executive, its powers and how the executive is made accountable through Parliament, judicial review, merits review and investigative tribunals, and open government.

Administrative Law

Administrative Law is a study of the relationships of individuals and organisations with government. In this unit you will examine the legal principles which apply to those relationships with the aim of developing an understanding of the extent to which government decision-makers are accountable to the public, to parliament, to the courts and to other administrators such as ombudsmen and merits review tribunals. The unit focuses principally on the grounds of judicial review. The unit encourages you to develop a critical perspective on these grounds of review, and their theoretical underpinnings. This critical perspective requires an appreciation of how political theory and the insights of other disciplines may provide a framework for analysing the choices made by administrators, and by judges in judicial review. The unit develops perspectives on how the values of openness, rationality, fairness and participation may be promoted through Administrative Law.

Federal Constitutional Law

In this unit, you will develop an understanding of the fundamentals of federal constitutional law through the study of key judicial decisions on powers and prohibitions in the Commonwealth Constitution. The course is designed to give you a general conceptual framework for solving problems about federal constitutional law by a detailed treatment of selected topics, that include: the function of the High Court as the final arbiter of constitutionality; the techniques of judicial review as applied in Australia; the adequacy of the Constitution as Australia’s basic instrument of government and on the scope for ‘reform’ by interpretation; Trade and commerce, severance and reading down, inconsistency, external affairs, defence, corporations, freedom of interstate trade, general doctrines of characterisation and interpretation, grants, revenue powers, excise duties, and constitutional rights; the US Constitution as a point of comparison and contrast.

Introduction to Property & Commercial Law

This unit provides you with an introduction to two key sources of rights and obligations in modern western law. It is designed to give you an opportunity to consider the role these areas of law play in Australian society, as well as giving a good grounding in legal principle. You will cover topics including: notions of "property"; an introduction to personal property; an introduction to real property including rights to fixtures and airspace; the different title systems relating to land in NSW (e.g., Torrens; strata; Crown lands and including indigenous systems); the nature and classification of equitable interests in land and personality; the principles governing assignment of rights to property at common law and in equity (including by sale and by compulsion – such as by bankruptcy), and an introduction to the principles for resolving competing claims to property.

The Legal Profession

The Legal Profession critically examines notions of legal professionalism and the regulation of legal services markets, legal practice and practitioners. Part 1 of The Legal Profession examines the nature of legal professionalism, the structure of the legal profession and the contours that shape legal services markets. Part 2 explores the regulation of the profession including historical challenges and diverse theoretical views and models of regulation are examined. The current regulatory regime in New South Wales is analysed in detail focusing on recent changes and the impact of a National Legal Profession. Part 3 explores specific forms of legal practice, highlights the major cultural and economic forces that challenge the parameters of legal professionalism and regulation of the profession. Alternative ways of organising legal practice and the legal services market are canvassed focusing in particular, on the impacts of modern technology and globalisation. Part 4 evaluates the lawyer-client relationship and suggests strategies to facilitate equality and effective communication in the delivery of legal services. Furthermore, it examines lawyers' duties to clients the Court and third parties, and the ways in which the rules and principles of confidentiality and conflicts of interest shape the advice and representation lawyers provide for clients. This unit of study demands active participation and ongoing critical reflection of the issues raised throughout the semester. A series of case studies is used to engage you and encourage critical and reflective thinking.

Corporations Law

In this unit, you will consider the legal structure of the corporation as an organisational form for both public and proprietary companies. It is designed as an introduction to both the general law of corporations and the Australian regulatory context. The focus of this unit is on the nature of the corporation and its governance structure. The unit covers issues such as the implications of the company as a separate legal entity, power to bind the company, duties of directors, and shareholders rights and remedies. You will be required to evaluate critically existing corporate law and reform proposals, with particular reference to legislative policy and underpinning theory.


An appreciation of equitable principles and remedies is fundamental to understanding the legal system and the law of property, taxation and obligations. You will receive an explanation of the origins of the equitable jurisdiction and examines its role today. A substantial part of the unit is dedicated to study of the law of trusts, including remedial constructive trusts. Other topics include fiduciary obligations, breach of confidence, the doctrines of estoppel, undue influence and unconscionable dealing, and a study of the equitable remedies of the injunction, an account of profits and equitable compensation.


This unit of study aims to teach you the laws of evidence. The focus of this unit is on the operation of the laws of evidence in civil and criminal trials. You will consider the laws of evidence contained in statute and the common law. You will gain an appreciation of the significant law reform in this area and consider the rules for adducing evidence, then the rules of admissibility (relevance, hearsay, opinion, tendency and coincidence, credibility, character, privilege and the discretions to exclude evidence). Finally, there will be consideration of issues relating to proof. This unit will focus on the uniform Evidence Acts 1995 and develop your skills in the area of statutory interpretation. Further, the unit aims to introduce you to the contexts within which lawyers might encounter evidential issues in the course of a trial. Consideration is also given to the ethical problems that may arise in the conduct of a trial. You are encouraged to think critically about the doctrines that govern the laws of evidence.

Real Property

The law of real property has always played an important role in the economic, social and political life of England and of those countries, such as Australia, which adopted its legal system. This unit of study aims to provide you with a study of the modern-day law of real property. You will cover topics including: the nature of the various interests in land; the law of co-ownership (joint tenancies and tenancies in common); priorities between competing interests in land; legislation governing the registration of instruments affecting land; the Mabo and Wik cases and concepts of native title; the Torrens system; the law relating to easements and covenants; the law of mortgages and leases.

Private International Law A

In this unit, you will examine the part of municipal law in every developed legal system which is concerned with legal issues which have a connection with a foreign legal system. You will address the three persistent issues in private international law: jurisdiction; choice of law and the recognition and enforcement of foreign judgements. You will study topics that include: scope of private international law; personal jurisdiction; substance and procedure; proof of foreign law; exclusionary doctrines; choice of law in contract; choice of law in tort; comparative choice of law in tort and recognition and enforcement of foreign judgements.

Elective Curriculum

In your final elective year of the Sydney JD, you must enrol in seven elective units of study which can be taken from the following:

  1. A minimum of one unit of study taken from the Juris Doctor Part 3 (comprising Jurisprudence units)
  2. A minimum of one unit of study taken from the Juris Doctor Part 1 (comprising International, Comparative, Transnational Units);
  3. A maximum of five units of study as specified in the Juris Doctor Part 2.
  4. A maximum of two advanced level Master’s level units of study can be taken. Enrolment in Master’s units will be subject to availability and unit admission criteria, which may include relevant industry experience or prior specialist study.

You will also be required to complete a capstone experience in their final year to draw together and synthesise prior learning and experience, and form the basis for further intellectual and professional growth. You will meet this requirement by completing a Jurisprudence elective. Other electives taken in final year which include external placements, mooting activities or research projects, may also provide a capstone experience.

Part 1: International, Comparative and Transnational
Unit of study Pre/co-requisite
Advanced Constitutional Law Public Law. C: Federal Constitutional Law
Advanced Public International Law P: International Law
Anti-Terrorism Law*  
Canadian Constitutional Law  
Chinese Laws and Chinese Legal Systems  
Commercial Maritime Law*  
Comparative Income Taxation* P: Australian Income Tax
Comparative Value Added Tax* P: Australian Income Tax
Corporate Governance*  
Corporate Innovation and Abuse*  
Corporate Social Responsibility: Theory & Policy*  
Cross Border Deals*  
Death Law*  
Development Law & Human Rights  
Doing Business in China*  
European Health Law & Policy*  
Genetics & the Law*  
Global Energy & Resources Law  
Global Oil and Gas Contracts and Issues*  
Goods & Services Tax Principles A*  
Human Rights & the Global Economy*  
International & Comparative Criminal Justice*  
International Commercial Arbitration P: Contracts
International Commercial Transactions P: Contracts
International Environmental Law*  
International Export/Import Law* P: Australian Income Tax
International Family Law*  
International Human Rights Advocacy*  
International Human Rights Law P: International Law
International Humanitarian Law*  
International Law of War, Crime and Terror P: International Law
International Law Moot P: International Law
Introduction to Islamic Law  
Islamic Law & Commerce*  
Issues in Property Law P: Real Property
Japanese Law  
Law & Investment in Asia*  
Law & Society in Indonesia*  
Law International Exchange Elective  
Law, Justice & Development*  
Law of the Sea*  
Legal Systems in South East Asia*  
Migration, Refugees & Force Migration P: Administrative Law; Federal Constitutional Law; Public Law. C: Administrative Law
National Security Law*  
Policing Bodies: Crime, Reproduction & Sexuality*  
Principles of US Taxation P: Australian Income Tax
Private International Law B  
Refugee Law*  
Sustainable Development Law in China  

Taxation Treaties*

P: Australian Income Tax
The Legal System of the European Union*  
The State & Global Governance*  
Trade Investment & Environment*  
United States Constitutional Law  
US Corporate Law*  
War Law: Use of Force & Humanitarian Law  
Work Safety  

#Seminar units of study may be offered with the approval of the Pro-Dean to bring together research interests of staff and students, or to permit a visiting staff member to teach in their area of expertise.

*Advaced level Masters units of study

Part 2
Unit of study Pre/co requisite
Advanced Commercial Law P; Contracts; Equity; Corporations Law
Advanced Corporate Law P: Corporations Law
Advanced Contracts P: Contracts; Equity
Advanced Criminal Law P: Criminal Law
Advanced Directors' Duties  
Advanced Employment Law*  
Advanced Evidence P: Evidence
Advanced Obligations & Remedies  
Advanced Taxation Law P: Australian Income Tax
Animal Law  
Anti-Discrimination Law  
Australian Income Tax  
Banking & Financial Instruments P: Contracts; Equity; Real Property
Carbon Trading, Derivatives and Taxation* P: Environmental Law
Chinese Laws & Chinese Legal Systems  
Commercial Dispute Resolution  
Commercial Land Law P: Real Property
Competition Law  
Contract & Equity in Land Dealings P: Real Property
Conveyancing P: Real Property
Corporate & Securities Regulation P: Corporations Law
Death & Inheritance Law  
Dispute Resolution  
Environmental Law  
Environmental Impact Assessment Law P: Environmental Law
External Placement Program  
Family Law  
Genetics & the Law  
Goods & Services Tax Principles A*  
Heritage Law P: Public Law; Federal Constitutional Law
Health Care and Professional Liability*  
Independent Research Project  
Insolvency Law  
IP: Copyright & Designs  
IP: Trade Marks & Patents P: Real Property
Labour Law P: Contracts; Federal Constitutional Law
Media Law: Contempt & Open Justice  
Media Law: Defamation & Privacy  
Medical Law  
New Technology, Risk & Environmental Law*  
Policing Crime & Society  
Roman Law  
Secured Transactions in Commercial Law P: Introduction to Property & Commercial Law
Social Justice Clinical Course  
Sydney Law Review  
Topics in Legal History  

#Seminar units of study may be offered with the approval of the Pro-Dean to bring together research interests of staff and students, or to permit a visiting staff member to teach in their area of expertise.

* Advanced level Master’s units of study

Part 3: Jurisprudence
Unit of study Pre/co requisite
Constitutional Theory  
International & Comparative Jurisprudence  
Functional Analysis of Law & Social Control*  
Law & Economics  
Philosophy of Law  
Precedent, Interpretation and Probability*  
Rights Morality & Law  
Sociological Theories of Law  
Theories of Justice  
Theories of Legal Reasoning  
Theories of Obedience  

#Seminar units of study may be offered with the approval of the Pro-Dean to bring together research interests of staff and students, or to permit a visiting staff member to teach in their area of expertise.

* Advanced level Master’s units of study