2.1 The idea of law
Our ideas about law are shaped through the images we have seen and encounters we have. These affect our expectations of law as an area of study, practice and its role in society. They also have an impact on our reaction to legal interventions and legal cases. Law tends to be something we encounter when something has gone awry. The next activity asks you to think about the meaning of law and your own impressions of law.
Activity 2 Perceptions of law
Write down any words or images you associate with ‘law’. Figures 2 and 3 are there to help you, but do not feel constrained by them, and try to focus on what law means to you personally. Think about where you have come across the law, whether in the media, film, drama, study or personal experience.
Once you have compiled a list, see if you can separate your observations into positive and negative attributes. Is your overall view positive or negative?
There is no right answer to Activity 2 and its discussion. It was designed to encourage you to think about your own response to the word ‘law’ and any ideas about law you have. Figure 4 has been compiled from the responses we had from students when asked this question.
Your future studies on this course will either reinforce or challenge your initial ideas and impressions. Making a record of your initial impressions enables you to recognise your pre-existing knowledge and your personal values which relate to law.
An understanding of law, the legal system and law's role in society can be empowering. Law however, as mentioned above, has an image problem. This may not be entirely undeserved with the traditional images of lawyers and courtrooms that are often found in the media and in dramas. Such images can however be a barrier to accessibility to justice and an understanding of the role played by law within society.
You should now watch the following video, in which Professor Simon Lee discusses the importance of keeping an open mind when thinking about the law.