LASO 204: Introduction to Law and Society

Instructor: Dr. Mark Harris, Institute for Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice
Office Location: Room 133 Jack Bell Building
Office Phone: 604 827 1583
Office Hours: TBA

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Course Description

Law seems to be everywhere. It regulates, controls, enables, prohibits, determines, protects, subjects, and shapes our lives in countless ways. This course is intended to introduce students to ideas, concepts and frameworks for thinking about the nature of law and legal processes in a global and historical – as well as a Canadian – context. This course examines the connections and relationships of law and society using an interdisciplinary approach that draws from scholarship in law, sociology, history, anthropology, and political science. In particular, the course considers the locus of legal authority, what law is intended to achieve, why people should or do obey the law, the relationships between law and morality, and differing historical, geographical, and conceptual approaches to law and legality.

This course is required to complete the Law and Society Minor in the Faculty of Arts.

Course Learning Objectives

The learning objectives define the overall goals of study in this subject.

On successful completion of this subject students are expected to:

  1. Have an understanding of the mechanisms of the legal system and how the law operates in society
  2. Apply appropriate written and oral communication skills in their assessment tasks
  3. Apply team-work skills in a small group setting.
  4. Think reflectively about the social and ethical issues that are relevant for contemporary Canadian society.

Course Format

The course consists of two lectures and a discussion meeting each week. While the professor will lecture for part of each class, students will also be required to participate through discussion groups and in-class activities. Some years, several guest speakers from the UBC community may present the role of law in society through their own disciplinary perspectives (Anthropology, History, Law, Philosophy, Political Science, etc.). Students are expected to attend ALL classes and be prepared to discuss or comment on the readings. Various written essays and assignments are required. Students who do not attend class will have serious difficulty passing the course. Students who are unavoidably absent because of illness, disability, or participation in other university activities should report to the professor and provide appropriate documentation as soon as possible to arrange accommodation.

Required materials

  • Textbook to be purchased at UBC Bookstore
  • TBA in the course outline, such as additional textbooks, material online on the Internet and on Connect

 Course Policies

I. Attendance and Other Requirements.

A. Student Attendance. Students are expected to attend ALL lecture and discussion meetings and be prepared to discuss or comment on the readings. Students who do not attend class will have serious  difficulty in doing well in the course.

We accommodate students with disabilities who have registered with Access and Diversity as well as those students whose religious obligations conflict with the course schedule and requirements. Please let us know in advance, preferably in the first week of class, if you require any accommodation on these grounds.

 (See Academic Concession, online at,36,0,0)

B.  Due Dates and course Requirements. Whatever the reason for an excused or unexcused absence it is the student’s responsibility to submit assignments on time, contact the instructor about work missed and understand the material. Missed exams may be made up at a time set by the instructor. Papers may be submitted after class on the due date for diminishing credit: 5% if submitted after class on the due date, another 5% if submitted the next week day and 5% for each additional weekday after the due date. No paper is accepted after one week without prior accommodation granted.

C.   Course Withdrawal. You should check on the dates for last day change or registration or without a W on your transcript and also the date to withdraw with an W instead of an F on your transcript.

II. Course Work and Readings.

After the first week it is assumed you have read all the required assignments before that week’s meeting.

All handouts will be made available during the term on the course website. Some reading selections will be made available on line. The prescribed text is Larsen, N & Burtch, B Law in Society: Canadian Readings, 2010.

III. Exams and Grading Policy

Evaluation in this course is by way of an overall participation mark in the discussion group for each student, a mid-term quiz, a prepared case brief and the final exam.

3.1 Participation Mark

Each student will given a mark for their participation in the class which will be worth ten percent (10%) of the total mark. This mark will comprise a component for both attendance and participation. Students will lose .5 of a mark for each class missed without a valid reason being provided to the tutorial leader. It is not sufficient to simply attend without contributing to discussion and debate if you want to receive a good mark for participation.

3.2 The Case Brief and Presentation

The case brief and presentation is worth 20% of the total marks for LASO 204.

The exercise involves students working in groups to “brief” a legal case and to present the case orally to the tutorial group.  The tutorial leader will allocate students with the legal decision to be briefed, and the week in which the presentation is to be made to the class, in the first tutorial.  If you miss the first tutorial, it is YOUR responsibility to contact your tutorial leader and have a case assigned to you.

Each group of students will be required to submit one typed, case brief of no more than 250 words to their tutorial leader at the time of their oral presentation.

 The oral presentation should be no longer than fifteen minutes in total. Presentations that are over, or significantly under the time limit will be penalised.  The purpose of the presentation is for students to develop their oral communication skills.  Students should NOT read their case brief, but aim to inform their tutorial group of the essence of their case and its interesting/important aspects.  Students may divide the presentation between themselves as they see fit. Students are encouraged to use one of the following formats of presentation or to develop one of their own:

    • Quiz
    • Role play
    • Debate
    • Mock trial
    • Media interview

As this piece of assessment is designed to develop and encourage teamwork skills, each student is required to share an equal load of the work involved in the assignment, and each student in the group will receive the same mark.  Students are required to discuss and resolve any issues arising within the group before the date of their presentation.  If a student fails to participate equitably in the assignment, that student will not be considered part of the group and will receive zero (0) marks for the assessment.

The rules relating to extensions and special arrangements apply to this assessment. Students who fail to present their case brief at the tutorial date assigned them by their tutorial leader will be penalised according to school policy, unless they have previously been granted a different arrangement by their tutorial leader.

Presentations will commence in week eight, with one case being presented in each tutorial group.  In order to ensure equal treatment of students, grades for case briefs and presentations will not be handed back to students until presentations for the entire cohort are completed.

3.3 The mid term examination

The examination will comprise of two hours of writing time, and is worth thirty percent (30%) of the total marks in LASO 204. The examination in this subject is closed book, meaning that students will not be able to take any written materials into the examination room with them. More information about the examination will be provided in the coming weeks. The content will be drawn from the material covered in weeks two to five of the course.

3.4 Final reflective take-home paper.

The final paper will ask you to draw from the materials and concepts discussed during the course of the semester. The length will be in the region of 2000 words and the questions will be made available on the last day of class (December 1) and the paper will be due the following Thursday (December 8). Since it is a take-home examination it will not be possible to have an extension (except legitimate documented emergencies).

Discussion section participation and activities 10%
Mid-term Exam  Tuesday 11 October 30%
Case Brief – weeks 8 to 13 discussion groups 20%
Final Term Paper 40%

IV. Academic Misconduct

Any academic dishonesty results in a failing grade. This includes plagiarism from the textbooks as well as any other source. Whenever you borrow someone else’s ideas, research, or words, you must give them credit by use of citations. When writing the various assignments, use your own words; do not just quote or paraphrase the text or introductions.  Please  review the UBC Calendar, chapter on Academic Misconduct for the university policy:,54,111,959.  For useful information on using correct documentation and avoiding plagiarism, visit




Dates Topics Readings
Week 1

Sept 8

Introduction to the Subject

What is Law? Systems of Law

Prescribed Reading

Waller, L. “What then is Law” in Introduction to Law, 2000, pp.197-211.

Week 2

Sept 13-15

Canada: Colonial Origins and the Law of the Land Prescribed Reading

Law in Society: Canadian Readings (Nick Larsen and Brian Burtch, eds) Toronto: Harcourt Brace Canada, 2010: 163-193

Week 3

Sept 20-22

Introduction to the Canadian Legal system

Styles of Legal Reasoning

Prescribed Reading

Courten, “Canada’s System of Justice”

Ontario Justice Education Network “How to Write A Case Brief”

Week 4

Sept 27-29

Lawyers, Legal Knowledge, the Language of the law &

Reading case law

Prescribed Reading

Parker, Christine. “Critical Morality for Lawyers: Four Approaches to Lawyers’ Ethics, A.” Monash UL Rev. 30 (2004): 49.

Mosher, L., (1997) “Legal Education: nemesis or ally of social movements” 35 Osgoode Hall L.J., 613

Week 5

Oct 4-6

The Judge, the Jury and the Courtroom Prescribed Reading

Fuller, L., “The Case of the Speluncean Explorers” Harvard Law Review Vol. 62, No. 4, February 1949

Austin, W. T. “Portrait of a Courtroom Social and Ecological Impressions of the Adversary Process.” Criminal Justice and Behavior 9.3 (1982): 286-302.

Further Reading

D’Amato, Anthony, “The Speluncean Explorers–Further Proceedings” (2010). Faculty Working Papers. Paper 98.

D’Amato, Anthony, “The Effect of Legal Theories on Judicial Decisions” (2010). Faculty Working Papers. Paper 82.

Week 6

Oct 11 -13



Week 7

Oct 18-20

A Just Society? Canada, Human Rights, Unequal Treatment And the Charter Prescribed Reading

Charter of Rights and Freedoms

Law in Society: Canadian Readings (Nick Larsen and Brian Burtch, eds) Toronto: Harcourt Brace Canada, 2010: 148-162,

Further Reading

Weinrib, Lorraine, “The Supreme Court of Canada in the Age of Rights: Constitutional Democracy, the Rule of Law and Fundamental Rights Under Canada’s Constitution” (2001). (2001) 80 Can. Bar Rev. 699-748

Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

Victoria City v Adams 2009 British Columbia Court of Appeal

Week 8

Oct 27-29

Approaches to Legal Theory:

Critical Race Theory and the Law

Prescribed Reading

Delgado, R & Stefancic, J Critical Race Theory: An Introduction, chapter one pp. 1-14

Law in Society: Canadian Readings (Nick Larsen and Brian Burtch, eds) Toronto: Harcourt Brace Canada, 2010: 108-147.

Further Reading

Tanovich, David M.  The Colour of Justice: Policing Race in Canada (2006) Part 2 “How Pervasive is Racial Profiling in Canada” pp. 71-118 (ON LINE LIBRARY RESOURCE)

Julian V. Roberts and Anthony N. Doob “Race, Ethnicity and Criminal Justice in Canada”: Crime and Justice, Vol. 21,  (1997), pp. 469-522

Scot Wortley and Julian Tanner “Discrimination or “Good” Policing? The Racial Profiling Debate in Canada” Our Diverse Cities

Elizabeth Comack (2012) Racialized Policing: Aboriginal People’s Encounters with the Police Winnipeg, MB: Fernwood Publishing.

Wendy Chan (2002) Crimes of colour : racialization and the criminal justice system in Canada

Week 9

Nov 1-3

Gender Discrimination

Feminist Legal Theory, Class and the Law

Prescribed Reading

Law in Society: Canadian Readings (Nick Larsen and Brian Burtch, eds) Toronto: Harcourt Brace Canada, 2010: 264-291

Further Reading

Chamberlain v Surrey School District No 36 2002 SCC 86, [2002] 4 SCR 710, para 1-74

Book v Minister of Justice, 1996 CanLII 3465 (BC SC) para 225-283.

Marchetti, Elena. “Intersectional race and gender analyses: Why legal processes just don’t get it.” Social & Legal Studies 17.2 (2008): 155-174.

Week 10

Nov 8-10

 Sexuality, Discrimination and Canadian Society Prescribed Reading

Law in Society: Canadian Readings (Nick Larsen and Brian Burtch, eds) Toronto: Harcourt Brace Canada, 2010, 194-214, 320-337.

Week 11

Nov 15-17

Questions for Canadian Society in the Law: Euthanasia Prescribed Reading

Law in Society: Canadian Readings (Nick Larsen and Brian Burtch, eds) Toronto: Harcourt Brace Canada, 2010, 55-87.

Week 12



Questions for Canadian Society: Protecting the Environment Prescribed Reading

Law in Society: Canadian Readings (Nick Larsen and Brian Burtch, eds) Toronto: Harcourt Brace Canada, 2010, 356-390

Week 13

Nov 29-Dec 1

Questions for Canadian Society: Access to Justice and Corporate Accountability Prescribed Reading

Law in Society: Canadian Readings (Nick Larsen and Brian Burtch, eds) Toronto: Harcourt Brace Canada, 2010: 88-106.