Is Law an Art?
My perception of law has changed and developed throughout my life. Before entering education as a mature student, as a lay person, law was about what you read in the papers (mostly criminal activities), what you watched on TV and thinking you know your rights whilst going about your everyday life. As a student of law, my initial thought was that to study law was to learn about the offences and to learn statutes (what I now know as ‘black letter’ law) and to learn it ‘parrot-fashion’! What a shock it was! I soon began to realise that studying law, through various lens, enabled students to gain a full understanding about the foundation of law. These lenses included looking at law theoretically, conceptually and, studying at Kent Law School, critically – this was alien to how I had originally expected to learn law.
In 10 years gone by, whilst teaching, I am now studying law once again. This time, examining law in conjunction with Humanities. In the few sessions we have had, I am now beginning to realise that I am studying law through another lens – law as an ‘art’. The question asks whether law is an art but one thing I do know is that I have never considered myself as ‘arty’ or creative being a lawyer! However, after reading the material for this module, I am having to reconsider my initial thoughts about the creative lawyering. The first thing that sprung to mind when considering law as art was that the most important skill a barrister has to learn (or a solicitor-advocate) is the ‘art of persuasion’ (something I learnt in Ian Morley’s book – The Devil’s Advocate). Thinking about the influential characters in fiction and on TV – Atticus Finch, Rumpole, Kavannagh QC and in recent time, Martha in Silk – you appreciate that these great characters possess the ‘art of persuasion’. By articulating creative arguments, they have achieved ‘justice’ for their clients – another notion discussed in the readings to come.
As Clive Anderson wrote in the Telegraph in 2009, in his piece about Garrow’s Law, William Garrow, an 18th Century barrister, was a key figure in developing the trials at the Old Bailey and began the adversarial system we have today because of his “art as an advocate”. So in answer to the question, is law an art, it has to be answered in the affirmative – so bring it on!!