First year FAQs | Law

First year FAQs

Q: What is the workload like?

A: In the first year of a Law dual degree program your law workload is usually 2 classes, each of two hours for Foundations in Law. 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 Foundations in Law and Public Law and Contract in first session. That means you have 8 hours face to face and 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 all year.

If you are a Juris Doctor (JD) student your first year load includes Foundations in Law and Public Law and Contracts, Criminal Law, Administrative Law (Session 1) and Law, Lawyers and Society (Session 2) – 16 hours per week. The load for JD students is very heavy, but this course has the advantage that you are immersed in the law and so learn very quickly. In addition, you’re not juggling this with a second degree as is the case for undergraduate law.

Q: What sort of assessments are there? 

A: Most Law courses have multiple assessment tasks. A typical pattern of assessment would be divided into a take-home assignment (40%), an examination done 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 a valuable learning tool.

Q: What is the failure rate for first year students?

A: 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 if 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.

First year FAQs

Q: What is the Peer Tutor Program?

A: The Peer Tutor Program is a program 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 6 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.

Q: Who do I see if I have troubles at Law School?

A: 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 is available. Their job is to oversee the operation of the first year program and to facilitate the introduction of students to law studies generally. Difficulties relating to course credit and your general academic program can be taken 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.

See the Who Can Help page for more information.