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SQE: business law and dispute resolution

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This module covers a range of relevant SQE 1 functioning legal knowledge in the areas of business law and practice, contract, tort and dispute resolution. Alongside gaining knowledge of these areas, you’ll have the opportunity to develop legal and transferable skills (including communication, research and numeracy) professional behaviours and commercial awareness. The module aims to deliver substantive and procedural law in a highly engaging and authentic way. This should enhance your employability and support you if you’re preparing for SQE1.

What you will study

The module is divided into 16 units. 

The first six units cover the law on business practice. They begin by exploring what is involved in starting up a new business. You’ll consider and analyse the features of certain business structures. You’ll then focus on two particular types of business structure –  legal partnerships and limited liability companies. You’ll look at how such business structures  are formed and managed. You’ll learn more about the role of partners in a partnership and directors and shareholders of a company. You’ll also consider the legal mechanisms for resolving disagreements between these parties.

You’ll look at how businesses are financed and the legal regime that applies when a business gets into financial difficulty. You’ll explore how trading profits are assessed and reliefs applied. You’ll then apply this knowledge to calculate income tax. You’ll also consider the scope and nature of VAT. Finally, you’ll be taken through the calculation of capital gains tax and how to apply business property relief to inheritance tax.

In the next two units, you'll focus on the law of obligations:  contract law and tort law. You'll touch on contract formation and explore in depth four key aspects of contract law: terms of a contract, mistake, discharge and remedies. This will be followed by a brief consideration of the law on negligence before exploring other areas of tortious liability, such as employers’ liability, vicarious and product liability and nuisance (public and private) in more depth.

In the remaining eight units of the module you'll investigate the law and procedure relating to dispute resolution. You'll begin by evaluating the different options available for dispute resolution. This will be followed by a step-by-step study of the processes involved in bringing a civil case to trial and the applicable law. This includes:

  • the key issues that must be considered when bringing court proceedings.
  • how to commence court proceedings.
  • how to respond to and defend a claim, and the importance of observing specified time limits.
  • the meaning and purpose of interim applications in court proceedings, and the nature of summary judgments.
  • the role of the courts in managing the timetable of a case.
  • the rules surrounding the use of evidence in civil cases and the duty of disclosure.
  • the rules governing costs, and the conduct and outcome of a civil trial.

Throughout the module, you'll have opportunities to reinforce and consolidate knowledge and develop skills through a variety of shorter and longer activities. The longer activities are designed to simulate a virtual working experience by setting the sorts of tasks typically undertaken by those training for a career in law. At the end of each unit of study, there’s a consolidation activity comprising multiple choice questions modelled on the approach taken in SQE1. You'll be encouraged to reflect on ethical and professional conduct issues throughout the module and note the increasing role of technology in legal practice.

The module will include a 60-minute online workshop with a business law or dispute resolution practitioner covering their experience of practice and providing advice on how to obtain employment in that area of law. There will also be two online SQE events, open to all SQE students, and will cover areas common to the three modules and be useful for aspiring solicitors.

Professional recognition

The Foundations of Legal Knowledge (FLK) route of the Bachelor of Laws (Honours) (LLB) (graduate entry) will be accredited by the Council of Legal Education (Northern Ireland) as a recognised law degree, subject to time limits, exempting you from the academic stage of legal training to become a barrister or solicitor in Northern Ireland.

Completing the FLK route within the specified time limits will enable you to self certify that you have fulfilled the requirements set by the Bar Standards Board to be exempt from the academic stage of training if you wish to become a barrister in England and Wales.

Entry requirements

You must have successfully completed 60 credits of legal study from OU level 2 modules prior to studying this OU level 3 module. If you will be studying this module as part of the:

  • Bachelor of Laws (Honours) (R81) or Bachelor of Laws (Honours) (graduate entry) (R82), you must have completed Public law (W211) and Contract law (W212)
  • previous versions of our law degrees Bachelor of Laws (Honours) (Q79) or Bachelor of Laws (Honours) (graduate entry) (Q80), you must have completed Contract law and tort law​ (W202) and Public law and criminal law (W203).

You must have a law degree which includes English and Welsh law and covers the seven foundations of legal knowledge if you will be studying this module as part of the Professional Certificate in Legal Practice: SQE1 (S36), or have completed:

  • a minimum of 120 credits from Law modules (which includes W211 and W212), or
  • W202 and W203.

You must also:

  • have at least nine hours available to study per week
  • be a competent computer user, including internet use and Office 365
  • have a strong command of reading and writing in English
  • have reasonable numeracy skills as part of the module requires the completion of tax calculations.

Preparatory work

This module will build on your knowledge of contract law. It is therefore recommended that you look over your materials on contract law from your previous study of this topic in preparation.

If you will be studying this module for the Bachelor of Laws (Honours) (graduate entry) (R82), you will not have studied tort previously and are therefore strongly advised to prepare by studying the supplementary materials on tort on the Law Study home site which will be available when you register.

What's included

You will be provided with textbooks on:

  • Business law and practice
  • Dispute resolution
  • Contract law
  • Tort law

You will also be referred to the book on Ethics and Professional Conduct which you receive when you register for study on SQE: legal system, public law and criminal litigation (W321). You will be directed to read extracts from these textbooks as you work through the online study materials.

You'll also have access to a module website, which includes:

  • a week-by-week study planner
  • module-specific study materials
  • audio and video content
  • interactive activities
  • assignment details and submission section
  • online tutorial access and tutor support.

Computing requirements

You’ll need broadband internet access and a desktop or laptop computer with an up-to-date version of Windows (10 or 11) or macOS Ventura or higher.

Any additional software will be provided or is generally freely available.

To join in spoken conversations in tutorials, we recommend a wired headset (headphones/earphones with a built-in microphone).

Our module websites comply with web standards, and any modern browser is suitable for most activities.

Our OU Study mobile app will operate on all current, supported versions of Android and iOS. It’s not available on Kindle.

It’s also possible to access some module materials on a mobile phone, tablet device or Chromebook. However, as you may be asked to install additional software or use certain applications, you’ll also require a desktop or laptop, as described above.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

Throughout your module studies, you’ll get help and support from your assigned module tutor. They’ll help you by:

  • marking your assignments (TMAs) and providing detailed feedback for you to improve
  • guiding you to additional learning resources
  • providing individual guidance, whether that’s for general study skills or specific module content
  • facilitating online discussions between your fellow students in the dedicated module, cluster and tutor group forums.

Module tutors also run online tutorials throughout the module. Where possible, recordings of online tutorials will be made available to students. While these tutorials won’t be compulsory for you to complete the module, you’re strongly encouraged to take part.

Due to the vocational nature of this module, throughout the module tutors will act similarly to training principals or mentors, having scheduled contact with students and providing encouragement and support. This individual contact will therefore be at a slightly higher level of frequency than you might have experienced on other OU level 3 modules.


The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box.

If you have a disability

The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying W323 involves. You should use this information to inform your study preparations and any discussions with us about how we can meet your needs.

Future availability

SQE: business law and dispute resolution starts once a year – in February. This page describes the module that will start in February 2025. We expect it to start for the last time in February 2031.

Course work includes:

1 Tutor-marked assignment (TMA)
5 Interactive computer-marked assignments (iCMAs)
End-of-module assessment