Is Law an Art?

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!!


One thought on “Is Law an Art?

  1. ct358 says:

    This shift in the way one conceives of Law from something practical and factual to Art is intriguing, especially if that someone comes from that discipline. I can understand why such a common view of Law as secular and problem-solving is still prevalent and how that can make it difficult for someone with a Law background or not to still believe this is the case.

    To be honest, I experienced a similar change of heart, if you will. Although I always seemed to consider Law as part of the Humanities more so than Sciences, I never really pondered on the question whether Law is Art. Like most people, I too shared the belief that Law is somehow different from Art, but where that difference lies I could not really say. Coming from the Humanities and specifically from a literary background, I have engaged with Law indirectly through literary texts, criticism and theory perceiving Law from the outside and looking at its impact, consequences and representation.

    This recent insight into Law from within has somewhat changed my initial assumptions. I can see Law’s affinity to the Humanities and finally pinpoint what is the reason why I considered Law as part of Humanities. I detected similarities in the techniques used, most notably rhetoric, in its concern with language, and in the ideological basis that informs Law, its claims to justice, universal values and a higher authority.

    While I cannot say for certain whether Law is Art—because that would require a much more substantial explanation and justification than the one I can give here or the one I am able to provide in general— I am be inclined to say that Law is definitely closer to Art than most would expect and it is without doubt worth pursuing this connection further.

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