In contemporary Australian society there is a range of complex laws that exist to protect the rights of individuals and to achieve social cohesion. These laws are made by bodies such as parliament and the courts and are upheld by a number of institutions and processes within the legal system. Members of society interact with the laws and the legal system in many aspects of their lives and can influence law makers.

The study of VCE Legal Studies enables students to become active and informed citizens by providing them with valuable insights into their relationship with the law and the legal system. They develop knowledge and skills that enhance their confidence and ability to access and participate in the legal system. Students come to appreciate how legal systems and processes aim to achieve social cohesion, and how they themselves can create positive changes to laws and the legal system. VCE Legal Studies equips students with the ability to research and analyse legal information and apply legal reasoning and decision-making skills, and fosters critical thinking to solve legal problems. Further study in the legal field can lead to a broad range of career opportunities such as a lawyer, paralegal, legal secretary and careers in the courtroom.

Units of Study

Unit 1:

Guilt and liability

Criminal law and civil law aim to achieve social cohesion and protect the rights of individuals. Criminal law is aimed at maintaining social order and infringing criminal law can result in charges. Civil law deals with the infringement of a person’s or group’s rights and breaching civil law can result in litigation.

In this unit students develop an understanding of legal foundations, such as the different types and sources of law and the existence of a court hierarchy in Victoria. Students investigate key concepts of criminal law and civil law and apply these to actual and/or hypothetical scenarios to determine whether an accused may be found guilty of a crime, or liable in a civil dispute. In doing so, students develop an appreciation of the way in which legal principles and information and used in making reasoned judgements and conclusions about the culpability of an accused, and the liability of a party in a civil dispute.

Unit 2:

Sanctions, remedies and rights

Criminal law and civil law aim to protect the rights of individuals. When rights are infringed, a case or dispute may arise which needs to be determined or resolved, and sanctions or remedies may be imposed. This unit focuses on the enforcement of criminal law and civil law, the methods and institutions that may be used to determine a criminal case or resolve a civil dispute, and the purposes and types of sanctions and remedies and their effectiveness. Students undertake a detailed investigation of two criminal cases and two civil cases from the past four years to form a judgement about the ability of sanctions and remedies to achieve the principles of justice. Students develop their understanding of the way rights are protected in Australia and in another country, and possible reforms to the protection of rights. They examine a significant case in relation to the protection of rights in Australia.

Unit 3:

Rights and justice

The Victorian justice system, which includes the criminal and civil justice systems, aims to protect the rights of individuals and uphold the principles of justice: fairness, equality and access. In this unit students examine the methods and institutions in the justice system and consider their appropriateness in determining criminal cases and resolving civil disputes. Students consider the Magistrate’s Court, County Court and Supreme Court within the Victorian court hierarchy, as well as other Victorian legal institutions and bodies available to assist with cases. Student explore matters such as the rights available to an accused and to victims in the criminal justice system, the roles of the judge, jury, legal practitioners and the parties, and the ability of sanctions and remedies to achieve their purposes. Students investigate the extent to which the principles of justice are upheld in the justice system. They discuss recent reforms from the past four years and recommend reforms to enhance the ability of the justice system to achieve the principles of justice. Throughout this unit, students apply legal reasoning and information to actual and/or hypothetical scenarios.

Unit 4:

The people and the law

The study of Australia’s laws and legal system involves and understanding of institutions that make and reform our laws, and the relationship between the Australian people, the Australian Constitution and law-making bodies. In this unit, students explore how the Australian Constitution establishes the law-making powers of the Commonwealth and state parliaments, and protects the Australian people through structures that act as a check on parliament in law-making. Students develop an understanding of the significance of the High court in protecting and interpreting the Australian Constitution. They investigate parliament and the courts, and the relationship between the two in law-making, and consider the roles of the individual, the media and law reform bodies in influencing law reform. Throughout this unit, students apply legal reasoning and information to actual scenarios.

Example pathways
  • Barrister, Solicitor, Lawyer
  • Business Manager
  • Compliance Secretary
  • Conflicts Analyst
  • Conveyancing
  • Education
  • Finance Industry
  • Law Clerk
  • Legal Secretary
  • Office Manager

This is a guide only, please see the careers team for pathway planning advice.


There are no prerequisites for entry to Units 1, 2 and 3. Students must undertake Unit 3 and Unit 4 as a sequence.

Unit 3 and 4 Assessment

Percentage contributions to the study score in VCE Legal Studies are as follows:

  • Unit 3 School-assessed Coursework: 25 per cent.
  • Unit 4 School-assessed Coursework: 25 per cent.
  • End-of-year examination: 50 per cent.