Faculty of Law

Undergraduate - Unit

This unit entry is for students who completed this unit in 2013 only. For students planning to study the unit, please refer to the unit indexes in the the current edition of the Handbook. If you have any queries contact the managing faculty for your course or area of study.

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6 points, SCA Band 3, 0.125 EFTSL

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FacultyFaculty of Law
OfferedNot offered in 2013


This unit begins with a detailed discussion of several well-known cases from the common law of Contract. The goal is to notice the gaps between the rules and the ultimate decisions. The course continues with a discussion of Max Weber's classical statement of how legal questions are decided in the civil law and his suggestion that adjudication in the common law is irrational. The unit then attempts to respond to Weber's challenge by focusing on the classical discussion of this question by some of the great theorists of the common law, together with contemporary writers who contribute to the same discussion. Students will read and discuss chapters by several writers, including Blackstone, Holmes, Maitland, Cardozo, Llewellyn, Hart and Sachs, Gilmore, Posner, Unger, Frug, Williams, and Fisher. Emphasis will be on discussion both the discussion among the theorists themselves and our own discussion with the competing traditions that we discover in the reading.


On completion of this unit, a student should be able to:

  • understand the civil law critique of how cases are decided at common law

notice when there are gaps between the announced rules and the case results

  • understand the different conceptions of case adjudication elaborated by the great thinkers of the common law
  • use the differing conceptions productively when making legal argument
  • elaborate an original theory of how cases should be decided.


Class participation: 10%
Presentation: 10%
Research paper (1,500 words): 30%
Take home examination: 50%.

Chief examiner(s)

Contact hours

9 hours per week