Studying business law

Introduction

There are some aspects unique to studying business law subjects, such as using precedent cases and legislation. However, the fundamentals for writing are the same as other academic subjects, that is, a well-structured text leading the reader through a discussion of a particular problem or issue.

Business law studies require you to read, understand and use both primary and secondary legal resources.

Primary sources of law are authoritative publications of law produced by law-making bodies:

  • legislation enacted by Parliament: (e.g. Wrongs Act 1958 (Vic))
  • cases decided by courts e.g.(Donoghue v Stevenson [1932] AC 562), and
  • delegated legislation made by government departments and other statutory authorities (e.g. Road Safety Road Rules 2009 (Vic)).

Secondary sources of law are materials that comment on the primary sources of law, such as:

  • textbooks
  • journal articles, and
  • legal dictionaries and encyclopaedias.

Legal writing

In addition to exams, there may be a variety of assessment tasks you will complete in your business law subjects, including:

  • written essays
  • problem solving tasks.

Writing in business law subjects is formal and structured. You need to be guided by your assessment task instructions and criteria about how to approach and complete the task. It is beneficial to refer back to the task instructions a number of times during your research and writing, so that you remain clear about the set task.

Always consult your unit, lecturer, or tutor regarding specific requirements for your work including referencing styles and use of headings.

Do not give a summary of the problem facts or legal issue in your response unless instructed to – you have limited words and your response must be relevant to the set task. The problem facts should become evident as you use them to discuss how the law applies to them.

Often there will be facts missing which you should identify. Make reasonable assumptions about what those missing facts are and apply the law to any missing facts you identify. You may also need to discuss the varying outcomes for different missing facts.

You will need to critically analyse the problem facts in order to apply relevant legal principles. Sometimes the issue may be obvious in the problem. You should still analyse the key problem facts to then demonstrate and apply the relevant legal principles in your response. Always answer the question and stick to the task requirements.

Sometimes you may have a question with contentious or ambiguous problems. In this case it is very important to analyse the issues involved in the problem facts to determine how legal principles apply. You might be surprised once you start to think of the issue from different points of view, it may be less obvious than you first thought.

There is no one correct way of responding to legal problem assignments. However, the method you use to organise your response must address the set question, and always involve a discussion of the law in relation to the facts – i.e., applying the law to the facts of the problem. Essay tasks similarly require you to discuss and apply precedent cases and legislation to a specific question, as appropriate.

The following Law Research and Writing Skills section outlines how you should approach legal writing and provides a range of resources for you to use and an example for you to consider.

Expectations may vary between business law units so it is important to be clear on the writing requirements of each assessment task. If in doubt, please consult your lecturer.