LAW 121G - Law and Society

Credit points: 15 points
Offered: Semester One and Semester Two
Contact hours: Lectures - 3 hours per week, 4 tutorials - 1 hour per fortnight
Course Director: Dr Anna Hood (S1), Professor Jane Kelsey (S2)
Prerequisites: None

Course description

The course is an introduction to the nature, functions, origins and contemporary questions relating to law in its social context. The focus is on law and society in New Zealand, including its sources of law, its institutions, and its operation historically and today. Māori concepts of law and justice, and their relationship to the New Zealand legal system, are also addressed.

Content outline

The course materials are divided into five parts:

  • Branches of Government - the origins of New Zealand’s flexible constitution, the balance of powers and the relationship to each other of the legislative, the executive and the judicial branches of government;
  • Concepts of law - a brief comparative perspective on approaches to law in society;
  • Overview of the global context of New Zealand law and transnational law;
  • Laws and Rights - a study of definitions of crime, due process in criminal justice, human rights and the Bill of Rights Act 1990; and
  • Law, colonisation and the Treaty of Waitangi - changing views on the legal status of the Treaty of Waitangi, Treaty settlement processes, and options for constitutional change.


  • 1 hour closed-book test
  • 2 hour closed-book exam

Plussage is applicable to LAW 121G. Plussage is a system that enables the best possible final mark for a course providing the requirements are met.

Students must achieve a minimum of 45% in the examination for plussage to apply.

All coursework must be completed for plussage to apply.

If a student does not achieve a minimum of 45% in the examination, and/or does not complete the test, plussage will not apply. The mark for the course will be based 100% on the exam.

If a student completes the test, and achieves at least 45% in the exam, they are eligible for plussage.

The mark will be calculated by: EITHER test (20%) and exam (80%); OR exam (100%); whichever results in the higher grade.

Recommended (but not prescribed) text

J Ruru, K Sanders and D Webb, The New Zealand Legal System (6th ed, 2016)

G Morris, Law Alive: The New Zealand Legal System in Context (3rd ed 2015)