Law FAQs

Why study law at Curtin?

Curtin Law offers a flexible and innovative Bachelor of Laws program, taught by highly experienced staff, designed and accredited to provide a thorough grounding in all areas of legal professional practice. Students who take full advantage of the trimester program are able to complete the Bachelor of Laws in just 3 calendar years and enter the workforce significantly earlier as a result. However, students can also elect to use that same flexibility to combine work and study effectively, or to provide space for other opportunities such as travel.

What is the difference between a Bachelor of Laws degree and the Juris Doctor degree offered by some other universities?

This is a complex question, but in essence the answer is as follows:

  • The Bachelor of Laws is available to school leavers with sufficiently high entry scores. Juris Doctor applicants, regardless of life experience or school performance, must do a university degree in another discipline before studying law.
  • The Bachelor of Laws is by convention a 4-year degree – reducing to 3 years for graduate entry. The Juris Doctor is, like the graduate entry Bachelor of Laws, a 3-year program, on the back of a prior undergraduate 3 year degree. A Juris Doctor graduate will have 6 years university experience – a Bachelor of Laws graduate 4. (Note that the Curtin Bachelor of Laws, whilst still a 4-year degree, can actually be completed in 3 calendar years by the use of trimesters in 2nd and 3rd years.)
  • Domestic fees for students studying undergraduate programs like the Bachelor of Laws are capped by the HECS contribution scheme, whereas Juris Doctor fees are not. Universities offering the Juris Doctor have the option to set fees for domestic students. While some Law Schools have chosen to offer the Juris Doctor under HECS initially, others, particularly some eastern States Law Schools charge very high fees for Juris Doctor programs.
  • It should also be noted that the Juris Doctor pathway involves 6 years of study, and hence 6 years of fees, while the Bachelor of Laws only involves 4 years of study. At Curtin, you can complete a law double degree with 5 years of study.
  • Law Schools offering the Juris Doctor argue that concepts are covered at a higher conceptual level than the Bachelor of Laws. Given that JD students are graduate students there may be some truth in this, although in formal terms the Bachelor of Laws and the Juris Doctor are required to cover the same compulsory material in order to secure accreditation from admitting authorities such as the Legal Practice Board of WA and its interstate counterparts.

What are some features of the Curtin law program by comparison with a Juris Doctor?

Trimester program. A Bachelor of Laws normally takes 4 years of full time academic study to complete. The Curtin Bachelor of Laws is offered as a 3-year trimester based program. You are of course not required to complete in 3 years, you can take longer if that suits you.

Earlier entry to the profession. You will be able to commence practice at least 2 years earlier than a Juris Doctor student starting university studies at the same time – and in some cases 3 years earlier! So, by choosing the Bachelor of Laws pathway you will be gaining valuable professional experience in the workplace, and a salary, 2 or 3 years earlier.

Volume of study. The Curtin Bachelor of Laws is a 4-year program and contains more law than a 3-year Juris Doctor. The Juris Doctor only provides 3 years of full time study, so you are not able to choose as many interesting units.

Choice. While we believe, along with most educators, that a broad liberal education is highly desirable, we do not believe that students should be denied the opportunity to study their chosen professional discipline directly from school. Experience shows that there is nothing about law as a discipline that makes it unsuitable for school leavers.

Double degrees. At Curtin you can extend your studies by undertaking a fully integrated double degree with Commerce or Arts if you choose. This means you can study law and another discipline at the same time. You don’t have to complete a degree in the other discipline first and then and only then move into law. There are clear advantages in integrated combined studies which are lost with the Juris Doctor.

Social cost. We fear that the requirement to almost double the study time required for admission to legal practice will impact very negatively on access to justice. One simple fact is that Juris Doctor graduates will enter the profession with much larger student loans to repay. For some this will not matter, but access to a legal education should not be restricted to those who can afford the extra years at university. This is consistent with Curtin’s overall philosophy of education.

HECS. The Curtin Bachelor of Laws is an undergraduate program and falls under the HECS deferred payment system. Some Juris Doctor students also qualify for HECS (depending on current internal university policies at the university in question) but will in any event pay for a 6-year program, taking into account the first degree. The Juris Doctor is classified as a postgraduate program, and students may therefore in future be charged much higher fees for the Juris Doctor component.

Will I be disadvantaged if I choose to study the Juris Doctor? Is the Juris Doctor as prestigious as the Bachelor of Laws?

The Bachelor of Laws is the traditional common law pathway to legal practice, whereas the Juris Doctor has relatively recent origins in the US. The move by some Australian universities to a US style of education – generalist undergraduate degrees followed by specialist professional qualifications – has yet to secure broad acceptance in Australia. It will take time for the Juris Doctor to be accepted by the conservative legal profession. By contrast:
The Australian Bachelor of Laws degree is a well-established high quality program. It is the traditional and well recognised pathway to professional legal practice in Australia, while the Juris Doctor is a relative newcomer. The Bachelor of Laws is well established in Australasia, Asia and Europe, and Australian Bachelor of Laws graduates can be found in exciting legal positions in Hong Kong, London or New York.

The Juris Doctor has no particular advantage in Australia, where the degree is not well understood or recognised. Few, if any, judges or senior members of the Australian legal profession hold a Juris Doctor.

Some Juris Doctor programs have struggled to establish market credibility in Australia, largely because they are similar in content to well-established undergraduate programs. A few Juris Doctor programs have been discontinued because they fail to meet appropriate standards. The long term future of the Juris Doctor remains uncertain.

Under the new Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF), qualifications are ranked in level according to degrees of complexity. The undergraduate Bachelor of Laws is ranked at level 7; the Juris Doctor is regarded as a Masters (extended) degree and ranked at level 9. Under the AQF qualifications of different levels cannot be joined within a double degree program, because only programs of equal level can be combined with each other. Therefore, the Juris Doctor degree cannot be offered with units forming part of an undergraduate degree. It is therefore not possible to offer the traditional double degree program with the Juris Doctor; students will be required to complete the full (non-law) degree before embarking on the Juris Doctor. For the same technical reason, the Juris Doctor cannot be awarded as an Honours degree, which under the AQF is ranked at level 8, lower than the postgraduate Juris Doctor. And importantly, a University may be required to demonstrate that its postgraduate programs are truly postgraduate, with teaching learning outcomes (TLOs) demonstrably higher than those specified for an undergraduate degree.

If money and time are not important and leaving aside the status of the institution itself, the Juris Doctor may offer some appeal for students with an interest in disciplines other than law. It will certainly not be a disadvantage to study something other than law as an adjunct or prelude to legal studies. A broad-based education is an intrinsically good thing, but it is obviously neither cost nor time free. Of course, the traditional Bachelor of Laws achieves all these objects anyway, as it permits students to pursue non-law studies through non-law electives, double degree and graduate entry programs.

Is Curtin planning to offer a Juris Doctor in the future?

No. The Curtin Law School is strongly committed to educational excellence, equity and, importantly, access to justice in all its forms. Legal education is one important aspect of access to justice. We do not wish to erect barriers to the profession, increase legal costs through higher student loans, or deter ambitious talented students from studying law and contributing to society in the future. The Bachelor of Laws is highly prized by employers and much more affordable for students. And, frankly, Bachelor of Laws graduates may well enter the profession 2 or even 3 years sooner than Juris Doctor graduates. The consequence for future earning capacity is obvious.

What are the entry requirements to study law at Curtin?

Curtin law takes students both direct from school after Year 12 AND after other university study. Please refer to the course page for the most up to date entry requirements.
Students who have already completed at least a year of tertiary study will be assessed on the basis of both ATAR (or equivalent), where available, and tertiary results. In general, you will need to have a course weighted average score of at least 70 over a full year of tertiary study to qualify for admission to Curtin Law on the basis of that study.

I already have another degree. Can I still study law at Curtin?

Yes. You are definitely eligible to apply for the single Bachelor of Laws degree. You will be assessed on your previous results. Graduate applicants can receive up to one years worth of credit towards the single Bachelor of Laws on the basis of their previous study. This will reduce their completion time to 2 years and one additional trimester if they take full advantage of the trimester study mode after completing first year.

Does Curtin offer double degrees with law and other disciplines?

Yes. You can find a full list of our double degrees here.

How is the law degree structured?

Bachelor of Laws single degree

The Bachelor of Laws degree is composed of 32 units of study. In first year, full time students will take 4 units in each of 2 semesters, thus completing 8 units in the year.  In the 2nd and 3rd years, students will take 4 units in each of 3 trimesters, thus completing 12 units in each of those years.  In total, full time students following this course structure will be able to complete the 32 units over 3 calendar years. However, students will also be able to progress at a slower rate if they choose.

Bachelor of Laws single degree (Graduate Entry)

Graduate entry students will receive up to a full years credit on the basis of their previous degree. Therefore, they will only need to complete 24 units of study

In first year, full time students will take 4 units in each of 2 semesters, thus completing 8 units in the year.  In the 2nd year, students will take 4 units in each of 3 trimesters, thus completing 12 units in each of those years. 
In the 3rd year, students will have one additional trimester in which to complete their remaining 4 units. 
In total, full time students following this course structure will be able to complete 24 units over 2 calendar years and one additional trimester. However, students will also be able to progress at a slower rate if they choose.

Bachelor of Laws double degrees

The Bachelor of Laws double degrees are composed of 40 units of study. In the first and second years of these double degrees, full time students will take 4 units in each of 2 semesters, thus completing 8 units in each year. Those units will be an equal mix of law and non law units.

In the 3rd year, students will take 4 units in each of 2 semesters, thus completing a further 8 units. Those units will be taken entirely from their non-law major, and will enable students to complete that part of their double degree.

In the 4th year, students will move to the trimester mode of study, focusing on law only. They will take 4 units in each of 3 trimesters, thus completing 12 units in the year.

In the 5th year, students will have one additional trimester in which to complete their remaining 4 units. These will again be law units. 
In total, full time students following this course structure will be able to complete 40 units over 4 calendar years and one additional trimester However, students will again be able to progress at a slower rate if they choose.

Will Curtin Bachelor of Laws graduates be eligible to practise?

Yes. The Curtin Bachelor of Laws degree, (including all double degree offerings) fully satisfies the academic requirements for admission to legal practice. It has been unconditionally accredited by the Legal Practice Board of WA, and provides graduates with a pathway to professional legal practice anywhere in Australia.

All Australian law graduates, including Curtin Bachelor of Laws graduates, must also satisfy certain professional admission requirements. These are satisfied by doing either a recognised Professional Legal Training (PLT) program, such as that offered by the WA College of Law, or 12 months articled clerkship.

What is the difference between a Bachelor of Laws and a Business Law major within a Bachelor of Commerce?

If you want a degree that is recognised by admitting authorities throughout Australia as a professional legal qualification allowing admission to practice as a lawyer, including the giving of legal advice and appearing in Court, then a Bachelor of Laws is the course for you.  If you want to gain a solid understanding of legal matters as they affect business operations but you don’t want to become a practising lawyer, then the Business Law major within a Bachelor of Commerce will suit your needs. Commerce graduates can benefit from a practical understanding of business law that provides the ability to recognise potential legal issues and risks during business operations.

Is the Bachelor of Laws available to international students?

Yes. However, all international students intending to return to their home country to engage in professional legal practice should be aware that recognition of Australian Bachelor of Laws (and Juris Doctor) degrees is a matter for the admitting authorities in that country.

What subjects should high school students be undertaking?

There are no special requirements – but humanities subjects are particularly useful. Potential applicants should be aware that law is a language rich discipline so very good English language skills (both written and oral) are required.

Will there be any places offered to low socio-economic / Indigenous students?

Yes. A number of places will be set aside. Students falling into these categories will have this taken into account when their applications are considered.