8 Years in Law, What Have I learnt? — 19 Sep 2021
This week I have realised that it has been 8 years since I started studying law. I completed a four-year faculty, I had three years of work experience including one year of painful traineeship and one year of LLM. Also in the meantime, I quitted from a postgraduate programme after completing the taught courses. I have learnt a lot in this process and gotten an overall idea about law and legal practice.
Law is More About Concepts Rather Than Bunch of Rules
I think studying law is definitely not about memorising rules and regulations that are subject to amendment. I believe it is much more similar to the philosophy that you ponder about the necessity for certain rules that may be beneficial for the common good. It makes you ask why we have such a rule and how it addresses issues that we face in certain situations.
That’s why it is a constant training for minds. The more you delve into the more it pushes you to practice normative thinking. When you try to understand the underlying logic of a well-established principle by asking “why”, you train yourself to conceive the concept rather than the rule. It applies to all fields of law, from public law to contract law or criminal law. For instance, when you ask why we have constitutions, you need to think about the reasons for the existence of a superior force that people are willing to obey. Or, why we penalise certain actions like consuming marijuana or gambling but not drinking. Sometimes you end up saying “this rule is stupid” and this is a good sign that you developed an ability to question and perhaps amend those rules.
However, from my experience, many lawyers are traditional thinkers. They are overwhelmed with the massiveness of rules. They tend to choose the easy option which is learning and applying rules rather than delving into their reasons of existence. This may make them good practitioners but I doubt that they are good lawyers.
Skills for Life
Law is massive. Every topic has different rules and sub-rules that most lawyers may never hear before. Law schools can’t teach the students every single area of law, let alone major practice issues. Such an effort would be in vain.
However, when one practices law, s/he will realise that you have to look for answers and the fastest solutions that are also affordable for clients. These promote two life-lasting skills which are researching and problem-solving. A lawyer has to “google” the latest case reports, follow changes in law, look for best practices and even find the correct regulation which might be difficult even for lawyers. Therefore, a developed researching skill is an absolute must.
However, researching and finding the answer is not enough. It should be applied in the best possible way. A lawyer should consider many factors at the same time. The time and money would be incredibly significant ones for the clients’ needs. The best legal answer might not be the best solution for either party’s interest. Therefore, you will mostly have a multi-structured problem. Therefore, problem-solving skills are highly needed.
I believe these two skills will be life-savers in most situations in life. This is a major benefit of studying and practising law that you can transfer to other jobs or fields.
A Way to Understand the Daily Life
Law exists in every piece of everyday life. A lawyer would run into the legal sides of the daily practices. It is hard to escape from a mind that is shaped by legal thinking. That’s why lawyers keep talking about the law.
It is not unusual that lawyers talk about a legal problem they face or a strange court order they read. It is not because they are obsessed with their job, but mostly they find their experiences highly interesting. Two lawyers can head into the details of a case or a rule for hours without getting bored which would be unbearable for non-lawyers. That’s why I would recommend those who did not study law to keep control over any conversation with lawyers. If they don’t think it is interesting, non-lawyers should try to change the topic immediately until it’s too late.
Although this may not be relatable for non-lawyers, I understand this tendency. It may sound nerdy but I don’t have the same pleasure I get from reading a well-written and articulated court decision in any other reading material. This is a satisfaction that I get from the exercise of pure logic and rationality. Exchanging thoughts on these issues is a great opportunity to contribute to this logic show.
Cal Newport: Deep Work, Focus, Productivity, Email, and Social Media | Lex Fridman Podcast #166 Cal Newport is a real productivity expert and a prominent figure for promoting intentionally lived lives. It was a pleasure to listening to him on a brilliant podcast of Lex Fridman whom I’ve recently discovered. There are many episodes worth listening to.
Last year, I had read Lord Jonathan Sumption’s “Trials of the State”. He is the former judge of the UK Supreme Court and a public figure with his op-eds in the newspapers. The book is precise and thought-provoking. It makes connections between law and politics. Highly recommend it. I am very eager to read his latest book “Law in a Time of Crisis” as well.