UTS Subject Review: 76516 Family Law

I’m doing Family Law (76516) this Autumn 2009 semester as my first law elective.

Learning Structure: 3/5

3 hours classes. I found these really long (maybe because it was the first class in my 9 hr uni day…). It’s basically a “seminar”, which means that the teacher lectures with slides (which aren’t available online!) but frequently opens the ground for discussion (from the class and facilitators of that week).

There’s a short break in the middle of the 3 hour block. After the break is pretty much the same, but there is usually a small group discussion exercise.

Staff: 4/5

Jenni Millbank: friendly, engaging, knows a lot about family law (both legal and sociological aspects), won’t confuse you, remembers your name.

Amount of Readings: 3/5

Set Textbook: Patrick Parkinson, AUSTRALIAN FAMILY LAW IN CONTEXT: COMMENTARY AND MATERIALS, 4th ed (2009).

There are set textbook and online readings every week. In some weeks, it’s actually quite heavy. But I managed to do almost all the readings each week, so it isn’t so bad. The Parkinson textbook is a combination of journal articles, reports and cases.

I found it a bit surprising, but about half the articles are about sociological/psychological research – in some places, this was a bit tiresome to read (I skipped it) because a lot of things are common sense (litigation is detrimental to children, children in violent families have more behavioural problems – duh…). But nonetheless, the readings are not hard (unlike say reading an Equity & Trusts textbook or the Corporate Law textbook).

Assessments: 2/5

  • Class Participation (20%): this is actually pretty onerous! You have 1 week of facilitation, but the other weeks you need to contribute something to the class discussion and smaller group discussions. This usually requires you to have read the readings for each week (unless you can contribute without reading…)
  • Research Essay (40%): 3000 words essay – not that hard, as the questions were fairly general. It was marked hard though – the average class mark was around 26/40!
  • Negotiation Exercise (Pass/Fail): you need to pass this to be able to sit the exam, even though it has no weighting. This is a really interesting exercise and helps you revise for the exam.
  • Exam (40%): luckily, it’s only on Property issues (materials covered in week 10 and after!)

Cons of this Subject:

  • Each class is 3 hrs – a bit too long sometimes.
  • You must attend class – there is participation, roll call and the lecture slides aren’t online (but they aren’t very comprehensive anyway).
  • There is no problem solving – except in the exam.
  • There is quite a bit of workload.

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