9 thoughts on “Crowdsourcing: Explaining the Law

  1. Ex law student here – I’d be very interested in the reaction to what I see as an inevitability; that is, on a long enough timeline, we will eventually have a government run ‘social media’ platform which could potentially be used to increase the directness of democracy.
    As I say, I consider that this isn’t something that can be avoided indefinitely, but it could certainly be resisted for our lifetimes.
    I’d tend to think that such a platform could be tired to electoral ID and would require an incredible amount of security and oversight, but I think certain advantages could come of this.

    I’d love to know whether this is regarded as a dangerous overstep of the state into our privacy, or if people see it as bring as inescapable as I do, and what the perceived benefits would be.


  2. McAllister (or Donoghue) v Stevenson has always been a great favourite of mine, not just for Lord Atkin’s “neighbour” but far more for the social background and the whole list of dramatis personae. It can happily be stretched to cover a whole presentation, never forgetting in today’s angry world, that this was a Scots case which changed English law!


  3. I’ve always been a big fan of illustrating implied repeal with some of the older (and madder) Acts of Parliament, such as the Lands of Idiots Act, the Bees Act, the Making of Hats Act and the various Sumptuary Acts.


  4. Amy,
    A great idea for a talk.
    You know your audience best and might be able to anticipate what they’ll be interested in most readily.
    A while ago, I helped put together a guide to the law for MPs (for JUSTICE). It includes some of the narrative examples you might be looking for.
    If you’re in Scotland, it’s recently been updated for MSPs (a Google search should turn up the 2017 Scots version).
    Good luck with your talk – and the rest of your degree!


  5. Amy,
    Good luck with your talk – I am a lawyer and I if I was doing this, I would gently test the audience’s understanding of what the rule of law means and why it matters, and talk about it with reference to some of the high profile events of the past legal year: the Article 50 litigation, the Unison case on employment tribunal fees (which has a very important passage in it about the fundamentals of what “access to justice” means), the Charlie Gard case, and Lord Neuberger’s retirement from the Supreme Court and the closing words of his valedictory speech, which are about the rule of law and respect for judges. I’d want to talk about how people can be helped to understand the important parts of legal judgments which may be – but aren’t always – long and technically complex. I’d also want to talk about how people react to and misunderstand what has been decided, and why protagonists (like Gina Miller) and independent advocates (such as those acting for the hospital in the Charlie Gard case) are abused and threatened by people who disagree with them. These are issues which I’m thinking about a lot at the moment, and you may not think any of it suitable for your audience or do-able in the preparation time that you have. And don’t leave out the humour, or the language of law – Sir Henry Brooke has a blog in which he picked up on a selection started by Gordon Exall (who runs a civil litigation blog) of memorable first lines and other passages in well-known judgments.
    I hope it all goes well, and that you keep your enthusiasm for explaining the law to people.


  6. Thank you all so much for your comments, they’re really helpful. Fortunately the presentation isn’t until mid-September, but, I’m an over thinker. I also see some serious misconceptions about the law within the group at times, and I want to do what I can to counter that (if I can: I’m aware I might not be able to). I’ve seen first hand how a little bit of information can make a big difference: about a month ago I really eased some anxieties surrounding Brexit (I’m not saying there’s nothing to worry about, and I’m certainly not saying I completely understand what’s happening, but with what I do know I was able to ease some very specific fears).

    LawPleb, I’m embarrassed to say that I haven’t come across those cases. I’ll look into them.

    Ashik: those are certainly very interesting questions, but perhaps not for this group. The group I’m presenting to is predominantly 70+, and computer literacy is (in many but not all) fairly low (and in some of the members it’s none, although I will say that a couple have very high computer literacy). They’re by no means stupid- quite the contrary- but those kinds of questions may not suit that audience.

    Richard: I gather Donoghue v Stevenson is really interesting, and I’m sure I’ll be studying it this coming academic year in torts (I do intend to read it before semester starts). It might not be as dramatic, but I could possibly do the same with Carlill v Carbolic Smoke Ball, which I did study this year.

    Dan: I hadn’t thought about including implied repeal, but that’s certainly something to think about. Perhaps as “the law is as human as we are, is constantly evolving, is a product of its time, etc”. Certainly something to ponder.

    Angela: that’s an excellent resource, thank you so much for pointing me to it. To be honest, the group as a whole are probably most interested in me and what I’m doing, and that happens to be law. But I hope I might teach them something, maybe empower them a little to understand a bit more about what’s going on around them, ease anxieties as mentioned above, point them in the direction of places that can help them (e.g. my university’s law clinic) if they need it. I’m in Manchester, which has a relatively new dementia clinic (which I hope to train in this year), so there’s definitely some cross over there (dementia is one of the challenges the charity helps with, to the extent it can- the vast majority of supporters are volunteers, so we don’t do much/ any heavy lifting at the more difficult end, but I feel we do a lot and make a big difference in people’s lives)..

    Barbara: that’s a fabulous way of framing the basics of the law, and I’ll give that some very serious consideration, thank you. There are risks with making it too political (not that I don’t have my own political views, of course I do, but this environment tries to be as welcoming and inclusive as possible and political discussion can get rather heated and unwelcoming!), but it’s something I’ll certainly weigh up. Keeping it to current or relatively recent news might be a good way to connect the audience to what otherwise seem like quite abstract concepts. And I hope I keep that enthusiasm, too. Before I came to the law I was training to be an ancient historian, and I adored (still adore, but do it less) trying to get people’s heads around the, frankly, weirdness of the classical Athenian legal system (and my blog name is a nod to that). I like imparting understanding. But explaining the law is sometimes even better, because it can ease uncertainty and empower people. (I’m obviously pretty careful, disclaimer pretty much everything I say with “I am not a lawyer” etc, and am pretty liberal with “I’m not sure/ don’t know” or “that sounds like something for a proper lawyer to handle”).

    Thank you all again for your comments, you’ve given me a lot to think about. And whether it’s read or not, I’m really grateful to The Secret Barrister for directing so many people here. It’s been something else!


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