General Course Information

1.1 Course details

Course code: LLAW6204
Course name: Public Law in Common Law Jurisdiction
Programme offered under: LLM Programme
Semester: First
Prerequisites / Co-requisites: No
Credit point value: 9 credits
Cap on student numbers: 35

1.2 Course description

Public Law in Common Law Jurisdictions (PLCLJ) is a course which aims to provide a strong grounding in and understanding of the principles governing the development and the operation of the Common Law, primarily in the context of Public Law.

PLCLJ consists of a series of taught Seminars and Discussions.

The course first provides an Overview Seminar which introduces students to the history, nature and philosophical underpinnings of the Common Law.

The course then examines the divergent impact of the Common Law approach on the development of Public Law in the UK and the USA. Next it considers the way in which the Chinese (Mainland) political-legal structure has been shaped by historical events both during the Imperial period and post-1912 and post-1949. It moves on to look at the way the Public Law aspect of the Common Law has developed within British Hong Kong and in the HKSAR. It then considers aspects of the inter-action between the HKSAR Common Law system and the PRC legal system.

The course will continue with a range of comparative reviews covering more particular aspects basic legal regulation including Taxation Law.

1.3 Course teachers

Name E-mail address Office Consultation
Course convenor Richard Cullen richard.cullen@gmail.com CCT 813 By email

Learning Outcomes

2.1 Course Learning Outcomes (CLOs) for this course

Students who successfully complete this course will be able to:

CLO 1 To demonstrate a good basic understanding of certain key features of a Common Law Legal System (CLLS) and the general operational framework of a CLLS.

CLO 2 To demonstrate a solid understanding of certain comparative key features and the operational framework of the Public Law system applying within the CLLS applying in the HKSAR, the UK and the USA.

CLO 3 To appreciate how Public Law within a CLLS is shaped by wider political, economic and social contexts.

CLO 4 To appreciate the fundamentals of a Rule of Law regime and how the concept of the Rule of Law has been shaped by the development of the Common Law.

CLO 5 To demonstrate an ability to formulate – based on the understanding gained in 1-4 above – a detailed comparative research project located within the framework of the PLCLJ course.

CLO 6 To demonstrate an ability to use the understanding gained in 1-4 above to write up the agreed comparative research project in the form of a well-argued and well-written Minor Dissertation.

2.2 LLM Programme Learning Outcomes (PLOs)

Please refer to the following link: https://course.law.hku.hk/llm-plo/

2.3 Programme Learning Outcomes to be achieved in this course



3.1 Assessment Summary

Assessment task Due date Weighting Feedback method* Course learning outcomes
Minor dissertation TBA 100% 2, 3, 4, 5 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
*Feedback method (to be determined by course teacher)
1 A general course report to be disseminated through Moodle
2 Individual feedback to be disseminated by email / through Moodle
3 Individual review meeting upon appointment
4 Group review meeting
5 In-class verbal feedback

3.2 Assessment Detail

The Minor Dissertation word limit is set at 5,000 to 6,000 words.

Each PLCLJ enrolled student will be offered the option to suggest their own topic for their PLCLJ Minor Dissertation (MD). They will need to do this by advising Richard Cullen, in a short written outline of the proposed topic, by Week 3 of PLCLJ. Each outline should provide:

  • The title of the topic;
  • Why it has been chosen;
  • And the proposed comparison jurisdiction.

Each MD topic should focus on an aspect of the operation of the law within the home jurisdiction of the student using a comparative approach which draws significantly on the Common Law. These topics will each need to be approved by Richard Cullen.
Where students do not prefer to choose their own topic, Richard Cullen will provide a range of set MD comparative topics – after Week 3 – from which PLCLJ students can choose


Where students chose their own topic it is most important that they develop the proposal for their MD as soon as possible. Without question, settling on a preferred topic in a timely way is the very best way to ensure the strongest assessment result. PLCLJ students should look at what areas of the law most interest them. They should then consider what particular aspect of law in an area of interest looks best suited, to the student, to comparative research.

In previous years, PLCLJ students have completed stimulating comparative MDs focussed on: Criminal Law, Public Law, Administrative Law, Taxation Law, Corporate Law, Labour Law; Tort Law, Contract Law, Environmental Law, Medical Regulation, Intellectual Property Law, Information Technology Law, etc.

Each year PLCLJ students regularly report back that completing the MD has been demanding – but also one of their most rewarding educational experiences.

3.3 Grading Criteria

Please refer to the following link: https://www.law.hku.hk/_files/law_programme_grade_descriptors.pdf

Learning Activities

4.1 Learning Activity Plan

Seminar: 3 hours / week for 12 teaching weeks
Private study time: 9.5 hours / week for 12 teaching weeks

Remarks: the normative student study load per credit unit is 25 5 hours (ie. 150 30 hours for a 6-credit course), which includes all learning activities and experiences within and outside of classroom, and any assessment task and examinations and associated preparations.

4.2 Details of Learning Activities

To be advised by the convenor.

Learning Resources

5.1 Resources

Reading materials: Reading materials are posted on Moodle
Core reading list:

There is no set text for PLCLJ although certain reference works are noted below. The Selected Readings are provided as a primary reference source above all. That is, the Selected Readings are not set in advance as readings to be completed prior to the taught Seminars. Students will, however, find them of use as they each prepare their Student Presentation and their Minor Dissertation.
Note: The PowerPoint Slides used for the Seminars will all be made available on the PLCLJ Moodle Website.

Recommended reading list:

Perhaps the most readable, and short, introduction to the Common Law is Glanville Williams Learning the Law. This book has gone through many editions. Read the most recent one that is available.
The following work adopts a more philosophical approach, and is recommended as a further general reference work. It is also available in a Chinese translation. P. S. Atiyah and R. S. Summers, Form and Substance in Anglo-American Law (Clarendon Press, 1987).

5.2 Links

Please refer to the following link: http://www.law.hku.hk/course/learning-resources/