Is studying law boring? | Gary Slapper
The Guardian on Facebook
Law is often portrayed as a dull discipline pursued by the ethically dubious. Actually it governs everything from embryo to exhumation
In an episode of The Simpsons, the juvenile delinquent Jimbo Jones helps a group which is trying to reduce crime in the community. The scheme, however, goes badly wrong. Disenchanted, Jimbo turns to another member and says “Hey man, you’ve really let me down. Now I don’t believe in anything anymore. I’m joining Law School”.
Although law is sometimes portrayed as a dull discipline pursued by ethically dubious practitioners, it is a spellbindingly vivid and varied subject which affects every part of human life.
Physics, history, Spanish, business, architecture, and other subjects are all vital disciplines but law permeates into every cell of social life. Law governs everything from the embryo to exhumation. Law regulates the air we breathe, the food and drink that we consume, our travel, sexuality, family relationships, our property, sport, science, employment, education, and health, everything in fact from neighbour disputes to war.
A university law degree is the most adaptable of academic qualifications. Only people who want to become doctors study medicine whereas people with diverse career plans study law.
Many law graduates, of course, do go on to become solicitors or barristers but, equally, many others use the qualification to become successful in companies, academic research, the media, the civil service, local government, teaching, campaign organisations, and politics – over 80 MPs, for example, have law degrees.
Being educated in logical thinking, the articulate expression of complex ideas, the composition and art of argument, and how to use evidence and rules, law graduates have an excellent record of employability. A law degree can prepare someone for work at the highest levels – many world leaders are lawyers including Barack Obama. Other law graduates such as Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Derren Brown, Gaby Logan, and Gerard Butler, chose different careers.
My Thoughts: I agree with the author that the law can be very useful and very interesting – but it is rarely both. While the law governs all aspects of our lives, it is generally the case that knowledge regarding contract, tort, criminal, property and administrative law is the most ‘useful’. Even amongst these, it is primarily contract law that we confront in our day-to-day lives.
While the case law on these areas of law can be engaging, it is statutes that are ‘most useful’ when you’re involved in a dispute and those can be incredibly boring to go through.
The areas of law that I found most interesting, Constitutional Law, International Law, EU Law, Legal History, Jurisprudence etc. are intellectually stimulating but have less of an application in everyday life.
However, it is the opportunity to be able to study both ‘useful’ and ‘interesting’ (if I’m allowed to make this artificial distinction for a moment) subjects during your law degree, that makes the course so enriching.
I liked the final paragraph where the Guardian quoted Seinfeld where he said that a lawyer is “the person who knows the rules of the country. We are all throwing the dice, playing the game, moving our pieces around the board, but if there is a problem the lawyer is the only person who has read the inside of the top of the box.”
As a treat, here’s the video of Seinfeld making the above joke: