Course Outline

Focus and objectives

This subject aims to provide a ‘hands-on’ introduction to the computerisation of legal information and knowledge, and the uses lawyers can make of computer technology. The emphasis in 2002 will be on the internet, and particularly the world-wide-web, as the fastest developing, most interesting, and probably most important aspect of the computerisation of law.


We cover the three technologies central to the computerisation of law and legal reasoning:

There is a focus on the integration of inferencing systems with hypertext and text retrieval, particularly via the internet, to provide comprehensive legal information systems. Practical applications in law office computerisation, litigation support systems and court computerisation are emphasised.

All three technologies / subject areas are covered from 3 perspectives:


There is no suitable textbook for this subject. Extensive online Reading Guides and other materials are provided on the Computerisation of Law web pages at

Teaching method - *Please read this carefully *

The subject will be taught by a combination of computer lab instruction, discussion seminars and internet delivery. There is one lab class / seminar class each week, plus required email discussion participation in between classes. The Lab is booked for an additional class each week, which may be used for guest lecturers, but is principally to assist students to obtain Lab time for course participation. The teaching approach can be summarised as a mix of the following:

Assessment (proposed)

Assessment on the basis of the following components is proposed, subject to discussion in the Introductory Class and on the class email list during the first two weeks of session.

(i) Research Essay (40%)- Maximum length is 3,500 words

Students may choose a research essay topic from any area of computerisation of law related to what is taught in this subject. The maximum word length for the research essay is 3,500 words, excluding citations and bibliography, but including any discursive footnotes. This is a strict word limit - penalties will apply to any essays that exceed the word limit, and such text as is well over the word limit will not be read. An important part of the skill of legal writing is to be concise. The minimum recommended word length is 500 words less than the maximum.

(ii) Computer Project(30%)

Each student will then be required to develop for assessment a small computer application to law (the Computer Project) using the tools which we teach the use of in the Tutorials.

(iii) Course participation (30%) - Class and Email participation required

Class participation is compulsory and assessable, and will be assessed on the basis of participation in discussions in both the classes and the email discussion list, and participation in the collaborative project.

Prior knowledge required

Each student will design and implement an internet-based computer application in an area of law. The use of appropriate development tools is taught during the course, including tools for computerisation of legal information developed at AustLII ( Familiarity with the use of a microcomputer and a word processing program is a pre-requisite, but a knowledge of programming is not required. Familiarity with computerised legal research is desirable, particularly internet legal research. Some classes take place in the Faculty Microcomputer Lab and enrolment is therefore limited. Students should obtain their own email account before the course starts.

Relationship to other subjects

This subject studies 'computerisation of law' rather than ‘the law as it applies to computers and networks’ (or 'cyberspace law'). For details of LLB and LLM subjects on that topic, see the Cyberspace Law web pages at . Those subjects and this subject are complementary. LLM students should do the subject LAWS3035 Developing Computer Applications to Law, rather than this subject.


Russell Allen, 4 March 2002
Phone: (02) 9514-3155 (AustLII)
(02) 9514-3168 (Fax)