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Signed, sealed, delivered October 10, 2009

Posted by Fiona in Law, University.

…I’m yours (until 30th July 1990, after which I comply with the requiremements of section 1 of the Law of Property (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1989).  It’s a land law thing.

In fact, there’s a law-related tangent-bouncing rant going on in this post, so I do apologise in advance; read it if you will but be assured that there will be both Terminology and prepositions at the beginnings of sentences.  Sorry.  I’ll learn how to write eventually.

I had my first two lectures of the term yesterday: Employment law and Commercial law.  What’s fairly interesting about these is that both of them are considered to be ‘private’ law (between two individuals) as opposed to ‘public’ law (between one or more individuals and the state), and yet neither of them fits that description particularly well.  Employment law can very well be about individuals and the state – take the minimum wage, that’s state intervention and it has a big effect on a lot of employment contracts, or employer contributions to a pension plan, or rules on maternity and paternity leave.  They’re all things that involve state intervention at some level, with the employer or the employee, and they all come under the heading of Employment Law.  As far as Commercial law is concerned, it’s a bit of an interesting one.  Most private law isn’t based on statutes; it’s based on the common law – that is, previous decisions in the courts.  Practically all of contract law is based on judicial precedent, and tort law, and family law and all kinds of other bits and pieces.  Commercial law, effectively, is based on a statute: the Sale of Goods Act 1979.  It’s a big one.  It’s breathtakingly important.  If you’ve ever returned something to a shop, or had it fixed in its warranty, or had a phone contract, or hundreds of other things, it’s the Sale of Goods Act that makes that work smoothly.

Which only goes to show that it’s really important, and relevant.   Both of which are useful if you’re having to read fairly dry people’s even more dry opinions on them.

Anyway, the point of this is, that a friend of mine who doesn’t do Law came to the Commercial lecture to see what it was like and because she had nothing better to do with her time.  This is something I’d like to do a bit more, this year, coming to other people’s lectures.  I’m at a university.  All kinds of people are learning all kinds of things, and being taught about them by people who love it enough to do that kind of thing for a living.  With all that going on, six hours of lectures a week really isn’t enough for me.

So this friend came along to Commercial law and sat at the back with us while we laughed at the occasional law joke (which I promise were better than mine!) and took copious notes – it was on the history of the law relating to merchants since medieval times, and really quite interesting – and at the end we asked her what she thought of it.  And she ummed and aahed, and said that she liked Law a lot and saw how this sort of thing could be interesting but really she was more interested in criminal law and in the political side of things.

This amused me a bit, because a year ago that’s exactly what I would have said.

Criminal law, and public law, are the attention-seeking side of the law.  It’s Shakespeare, or photosynthesis, or a hundred and one different things that people have heard about and catch their imagination.  Because Criminal law is a Big Thing.  Kavanagh QC and Judge John Deed and Morse and Frost and Poirot and hundreds of fictional detectives for centuries have been immensely popular, because it’s exciting.  I hesitate to say that Criminal law is the sexy side of law, but it’s certainly the side that gets seen as fast-paced, and interesting, and explosive.  And then there’s public law – everyone’s heard of the Human Rights Act, even if they don’t know what it involves.  Everyone’s interested in their own rights, and, again, in hearing about people who’ve had their rights abused or taken away from them, and the remedies for that.  Next to that, poor old private law – which is about compensation rather than punishment and rarely makes the national news – gets a bit sidetracked at times.

Until you study the law.  Last year I think most of us would have said we were more interested in public law than private law.  This year, I estimate about a 60:40 split in favour of private law.  Of my own three optional modules, I’m taking two (ostensibly) private law subjects (Employment and Commercial) and one public law one (Advanced Issues in Public Law – it’s going to be amazing and I’m sure I’ll never shut up about it).  I hesitate to say that private law is more subtle, because both ends of the spectrum have a vast array of subtleties, and I hesitate to say that private law is easier, or more black-and-white, because Contract was a bitch last year.  What I do think has happened is that a lot of people have discovered a lot of things that they never knew they were as interested in as they are.  Which is why I do find it a bit amusing that someone, albeit someone who studies politics, sees public law as more interesting, and more relevant to them than private law.  It’s not.  It’s just… whooshier.

This is not to say “ahahaha, legally uneducated plebs,” more that really, it takes all sorts, and I don’t always notice that until it looks me in the eye and waves.



1. Dickie - October 10, 2009

It’s interesting the sort of things that people find interesting in my degree (Civil Engineering). Concrete (once had a lecture on the history of concrete. Surprisingly interesting), or water (by which i mean sewage, by which i mean shit), or soil (Zzzzzzzz…), or a hundred really dull-sounding things.

Anyway, the reason I’m writing this comment is to say: 6 hours a week?! I have 5 hours on Thursday alone! :-p
I think it’s 13 hours per week (this semester anyway), on top of which we have to do a group project, reading, example questions, and obviously a dissertation. All good fun! 🙂

2. stitchthisdarling - October 11, 2009

Six hours a week, yes. And three more of tutorials, on average. And then the same again twice over in reading, plus essaying. Yay for our law department; of course they don’t condescend to actually *teaching*…

It’s interesting, and in some ways a bit sad, the parts of a subject that most people have heard of. I have a friend who does Civil Engineering. He measures bridges in his spare time. He’s a lovely bloke, and not in the least bit insane, it’s just that there’s a particularly architecturally interesting bridge smack bang in the middle of town. Again, all good fun!

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