Your mission: to compile an introductory reading list for Law.
Time allowed? 30 minutes
Quick, get a definition.
Law is ‘The system of rules which a particular country or community recognizes as regulating the actions of its members and which it may enforce by the imposition of penalties’… ‘Systems of law as a subject of study’ (Oxford Dictionaries.com)
A web search for ‘introduction to Law’ turns up:
Catherine Barnard, Janet O’Sullivan, Graham Virgo (eds.), What About Law? Studying Law at University (Hart Publishing, 2ndedition, 2011)
Raymond Wicks, Law: A Very Short Introduction (OUP, 2ndedition, 2015).
Tom Bingham, The Rule of Law (Penguin, 2011)
Robert Cryer, An Introduction to International Criminal Law and Procedure (CUP, 3rdedition, 2014)
The Shelf Test
You are standing on the ground floor of SOAS University of London library, with a subject guide in our hand. Its classmarks range across Jurisprudence, Legal Method, Conflict of Law, EU and International Law, Human Rights, International Criminal Law, as well as the laws of Asia, the Middle East and Africa. This includes: Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Hindu, Islamic, Islamic Family, Turkish, Iraqi, Syrian, Lebanese, Palestinian, South East Asian, Burmese, Thai, Malaysian, Singapore, Vietnamese, African, Libyan, Sudanese, Algerian, Ghanaian, Nigerian, Kenyan, and South African law.
What single tome could address all these topics? Wondering about this, you lift down a general guide from the shelf:
Lisa Webley, Legal Writing (Routledge, 4thedition, 2016),
which ‘guides students comprehensively through this vital legal skill’.
Another work catches your eye:
Ian Morely QC, The Devil’s Advocate (Sweet & Maxwell, 3rdedition, 2015).
It is written by a UK barrister, practising in criminal law, from chambers at 23 Essex Street, London. You dip into it and become distracted momentarily from your task. His advice to novice criminal lawyers in court:
‘Don’t be embarrassed by silence.’
Having listed other ‘fill-in distractions’ such as ‘Right’, ‘OK’, ‘And’, ‘So’, he says: “Don’t do this. Please!
“The problem with Right and OK, aside from being irritations like Urmm Ehhh, is that it also suggests you are approving of the witness, and that you are signalling the correct answers to the witness. This has the effect of undermining the witness’s credibility, and of course yours… “(pages 206-7).
You glance at the clock. Quick, what about this book:
Steve Wilson, Phillip Kenny, The Law Student’s Handbook (OUP, 2007), which includes advice on how to become a solicitor, a barrister, or alternative careers with a law degree, and:
offers a practical and informative guide to studying law. It introduces the ways in which law is taught, then covers in detail the practical study and academic skills required to study law. The authors complete the picture by looking ahead to legal careers. This is ideal as pre-course reading for prospective law students, and can also be a valuable point of reference during the first year and throughout a law degree.
30 minutes are up. Time to put your introductory reading list to the final test.
An Academic’s response: Professor Mashood Baderin
Here are some introductory books on law
- Glanville Williams, Learning the Law (16th Sweet & Maxwell, 2016) – For an introduction to the foundational skills needed to study law effectively.
- Linda Mulcahy, Contract Law in Perspective (5th ed. Routledge, 2008). – For a slightly ‘critical’ approach to law of contract,
- Cane, P, Key Ideas in Tort Law (Hart, 2017) – For some key ideas in Tort Law
- Hirst, M, Jurisdiction and Ambit of the Criminal Law (OUP, 2003) – For a peep into criminal law.
Now be inspired by some SOAS Law Professors:
- Catriona Drew speaking about Self-Determination in International Law in: ‘The Great Unravelling: Self Determination’ (Interviewee, BBC World Service Radio, The Compass, 18 November 2018)
- Phillippe Cullet speaking on Right to Water Law in India
- Fareda Banda’s interview on Gender Rights
- Mashood Baderin speaking about studying Islamic law at SOAS
- Baroness Hale’s 2015 School of Law Inception Lecture on Life in the Supreme Court
for details about these and other degree programmes