Introduction to Legal Theory

The details
Essex Pathways
Colchester Campus
Full Year
Foundation/Year Zero: Level 3
Thursday 03 October 2024
Friday 27 June 2025
26 July 2023


Requisites for this module



Key module for

LLB M101 Law (Including Foundation Year),
LLB MM30 Law with Human Rights (Including Foundation Year),
LLB MV06 Law with Philosophy (Including Foundation Year),
LLB ML26 Law with Politics (Including Foundation Year),
LLB MN03 Law with Business (Including Foundation Year),
LLB MN13 Law with Finance (Including Foundation Year),
LLB MM03 Law with Criminology (Including Foundation Year),
LLB M1Q4 Law with Literature (Including Foundation Year),
LLB M1V2 Law with History (Including Foundation Year)

Module description

This module is designed for students with no previous knowledge of English law, or of Jurisprudence. Students will be introduced to the general principles of legal philosophy and encouraged to develop an understanding of the various contemporary writers on the subject and develop an insight to how and why the law evolves.

The Autumn term will introduce different legal theories which the students will apply to judgments and scenarios. The Spring term will build upon the philosophies and consider how and why law and society develop, including critical approaches to the law.

Module aims

The aims of this module are:

  • To provide an understanding of the general theoretical reflections upon law and justice.

  • To promote discussion within the class to advance identification of the jurisprudential concepts of law.

  • To enable students to associate the different theories with relevant case law.

  • To encourage students to critically analyse theories of law.

  • To develop students’ knowledge of competing theories in order that they may make critical comparisons.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of this module, students will be expected to be able to:

  1. Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of key legal theories.

  2. Identify and explain issues in legal theories, both orally and in writing.

  3. Apply their understanding of legal theories to relevant statutes and case law.

  4. Analyse and critique competing theories of law.

  5. Contextualise legal theories in a contemporary context.

Skills for your professional life (Transferable Skills)

By the end of this module, students will have been offered opportunities:

  1. To improve your written and oral communication skills.

  2. To develop your IT skills by learning to work in word.

  3. To improve your current awareness through debates on current affairs and recent cases.

  4. To develop your personal plan of setting targets and time management to undertake coursework and exams.

  5. Developing your ability to confidently analyse and critically reflect, in order to build persuasive arguments.

  6. Learning how to undertake legal research and find answers to legal questions.

Module information


  • What is Legal Theory?

  • Foundations of State.

  • State of Nature.

  • Social Contract Theory.

  • Law and Society.

  • Legal Positivism.

  • Natural Law.

  • Crime and Punishment.

  • Ethical Theories.

  • Theories of Justice.

  • Critical Legal Studies.

  • The Project.

Learning and teaching methods

This module will be delivered via:

  • One 2-hour lecture per week.
  • One 2-hour seminar per week. 

Teaching and learning on the Law Pathway offers students the ability to develop the foundation knowledge, skills and competencies, to study an undergraduate LLB course, through a curriculum that is purposely designed to provide an exceptional learning experience. All teaching, learning and assessment materials will be available to both staff and students via Moodle in a consistent and user-friendly manner.


Lectures primarily focus on the sharing of academic theory and concepts to ensure students develop a sound knowledge and understanding of the discipline and cultivate an appreciation of relevant research in the subject area. Lectures will outline the basis of the theory and traditional approaches and will also allow for wider perspectives and current case studies enabling students to develop the ability to debate and discuss in an informed manner.


Seminars provide students with the opportunity to apply and reflect upon what they have learned from the lectures and guided study and aim to bring the knowledge and understanding ‘to life’ by relating it to current issues and practice. In seminars, students will develop skills of application, analysis and problem-solving through a variety of activities including quizzes, problem scenarios and essay-style questions. Seminars will be scheduled at a weekly set-time, for the duration of the module and will appear in the timetable. Students will be expected to undertake the guided reading, preparation and research, necessary for this module.


The above list is indicative of the essential reading for the course.
The library makes provision for all reading list items, with digital provision where possible, and these resources are shared between students.
Further reading can be obtained from this module's reading list.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Coursework weighting
Coursework   1 Hour (In Person) Test    20% 
Coursework   Project    50% 
Practical   Oral Presentation     25% 
Practical   Participation    5% 

Additional coursework information

Formative assessment

  • A formative essay of 750 words will be undertaken during the first term, relating to the topics already covered. The essay will be self-marked, in class, giving students instant feedback. Further one-to-one feedback will be available from the Module Leader upon request.

Summative assessment

  • A one-hour in-person, open book (restricted) Moodle test of 30 multiple-choice questions. This will test students’ knowledge and understanding of the material delivered in the lectures, and their developing abilities to apply this to practical scenarios.
  • A 10-minute Oral Presentation. Students will present their understanding of a theorist, by applying it to a case or scenario.
  • The project is 1,500 words including footnotes. The project will take the form of a contemporary case study where students will develop their writing skills. Students will be required to identify legal issues and analyse and critique the application of legal theory doctrines to the given scenario.
  • Participation mark. Participation marks will be awarded based on engagement with set reading and homework. This will be assessed against students’ ability to utilise the material explored outside the classroom during classroom-based activities.

Reassessment strategy

  • Failed Coursework - resubmit a piece of coursework (1,500 words) which will be marked as 100% of the new module mark. The reassessment task will enable the relevant learning outcomes to be met.
  • If the individual oral presentation has failed or has not been attempted, students will also be required to submit a pre-recorded individual presentation of no longer than 10 minutes. The weighting will be divided equally between the assignment and the presentation.

Exam format definitions

  • Remote, open book: Your exam will take place remotely via an online learning platform. You may refer to any physical or electronic materials during the exam.
  • In-person, open book: Your exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer to any physical materials such as paper study notes or a textbook during the exam. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, open book (restricted): The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer only to specific physical materials such as a named textbook during the exam. Permitted materials will be specified by your department. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, closed book: The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may not refer to any physical materials or electronic devices during the exam. There may be times when a paper dictionary, for example, may be permitted in an otherwise closed book exam. Any exceptions will be specified by your department.

Your department will provide further guidance before your exams.

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Ms Gemma Cowling-Hearn, email: glcowl@essex.ac.uk.
Gemma Cowling
Lucy Anthony (lanthony@essex.ac.uk)



External examiner

Ms Linda Hurley
University of Southampton
Senior Teaching Fellow
Available via Moodle
Of 3486 hours, 16 (0.5%) hours available to students:
3470 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s).


Further information
Essex Pathways

* Please note: due to differing publication schedules, items marked with an asterisk (*) base their information upon the previous academic year.

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