Learning the Law

Glanville Williams Learning the LawI started studying law, for real, today. I’ve decided to spend regular evenings at the law library at study. However, I’m going to build up the momentum gradually by initially making two visits a week.

Today, I decided to start with an introductory text – Learning the Law – by Glanville Williams. I spent a few hours reading this little book and I managed to cover most of it. The first half is about the law while the second half is about how to pass law examinations and becoming a lawyer.

Goodness me, this book is hilarious. I actually spent a lot of time laughing as the author poked fun at the legal profession and lawyers in general. It’s nice that the author has a sense of humour. I liked the book a lot though the price is a little prohibitive for me to own it.

I plan to finish reading most of the text books by the end of December and get started with reading cases next year.

From the GW book, I learned the basic structure of law, and the difference between the various categories of law. I also learned about the courts system in England. However, I think that the most important takeaway for me, from the book is this – stare decisis.

If a lawyer is confronted with a legal precedent, he/she has got the option of challenging the decision (assuming that it is not binding) or to distinguish the case. The former is difficult as courts are hesitant on overturning long-standing decisions; and neither do the courts want to be seen to vacillate by overturning recent decisions.

Therefore, the best strategy would likely be to find some material fact of the present case that distinguishes it from the previous precedent. This would make the previous ratio decidendi as non-binding and purely advisory. However, whether a fact is material or not, is entirely subjective.

I think that trying to study the social sciences needs a very different skill-set from the hard sciences. However, I do think that engineering prepares one for legal studies as we understand the concept of trade-off and compromise very well.

Well, today was a good start. I hope to read more on Thursday.

What Law Applies?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Putrajaya_4064188579_ec6a5c7efc.jpgThe ultimate reason for learning about the legal system is to figure out what law applies to a particular problem. Every legal system has its own little quirks due to the evolutionary nature of its laws. However, it is still essential to understand what laws address a particular problem in order to find a solution.

Anyway, that’s what I thought after listening to the introductory lecture on the Malaysian Legal System.

We have an especially peculiar legal system within Malaysia, which is governed by a whole set of laws that go way back in history. It’s not just about the statutes nor the courts. It encompasses everything from our Constitution(s), legislations, cases, common law, customs and Islamic laws.

Personally, I think that we need a new system. The current one is just too convoluted and inefficient. While it is not yet broke, it is definitely getting worn down by the day and will give in the future.

As the law is a living creature, this should not be an issue as we will develop and continue to evolve the law to tackle new problems.

Oh, and I learned what stare decisis and ratio decidendi and ober dictum means today.

Law is full of cool words from a dead language!