Skip to content
Skip to main content

About this free course

Become an OU student

Download this course

Share this free course

Legal skills and debates in Scotland
Legal skills and debates in Scotland

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

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

Timing: (Allow 15 minutes)

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?

To use this interactive functionality a free OU account is required. Sign in or register.
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).


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.

Described image
Figure 4Responses of some of our students to the law

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, in TV dramas and films. Such images can however be a barrier to accessibility to justice and an understanding of the role played by law within society.

A picture of a statue with the symbols of justice, scales and a sword.
Figure 5An image associated with law: justice

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.

Download this video clip.Video player: Video 1 Professor Simon Lee
Copy this transcript to the clipboard
Print this transcript
Show transcript|Hide transcript
Video 1 Professor Simon Lee
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).