Study With Me: Introduction to Law

May 21, 2018

the paralegal club study session
Source: Loe Moshkovska / Pexels

Are you ready for a study session?

I've talked about why I've started this blog, how I've come to be on this journey and why I love the law. Now, I've decided to start a study session - and you're invited! Every (second) Monday, I'll be writing a blog post dedicated to a particular area of law. This idea was inspired by Daniella of The Law Student Diary as she has a category on her blog dedicated to study notes, too. 

I am, by no means, an expert in any of these topics. I just want to share what I know with other people in the hope that you a) learn something, b) understand why I love it, or c) this helps my study as a form of revision. These notes will be written from my class notes, so it's entirely my own understanding with a little bit of fact and case law thrown in here and there. Proper citations will be given where possible.

Here's our first topic: Introduction to Law

Law is made by a law-maker, recognised by a community or nation, and is binding and enforceable. It is not singularly moral, scientific, ethical or based on religion. It is not decided to favour one person's view of what is right or wrong or any 'club rules'. It simply is and we shouldn't let our perceptions of what is right and just cloud our understanding of what the law is. 

I've heard many, many people say that certain laws are stupid or restrictive, but the fact is: they wouldn't exist if they didn't have a purpose. Laws are necessary for communities to function effectively. It regulates the relationships between community members and the community itself. Some legislation operates more effectively than others, but just imagine what it would be like if it didn't exist at all. Would you knowingly break the law? I don't think so. We stick to the law because (deep down) we recognise its value and we're scared of the consequences.

There are three main types of law:
  • Public 
  • Private
  • International (not part of my study)
Private law is also known as 'civil law' and regulates relationships between individuals. It is enforced through community courts and the cases are brought forward by individuals, not the state. Private law includes:
  • Law of contract
  • Tort law
  • Consumer law
  • Property law
  • Family law
  • Trusts and inheritance
  • Company law
In private law, the plaintiff brings the action and also has the onus of proof. One individual sues another with the goal of determining rights and providing a remedy or compensation. The standard of proof in private law is on a balance of probabilities - you have to prove that your version is more likely to be correct.

Public law concerns the actions of the state and the relationship between state and individual. Primarily, in the rights and duties of the individual in relation to the state. This is different to private law because cases can be brought by the state on behalf of all members of the public. Public law includes:
  • Constitutional law
  • Administrative law
  • Criminal law
  • Tax law
  • Environmental law
In public law, the state brings an action against an individual and has the onus of proof. The goal of which is to punish the wrongdoer. The standard of proof here is much tougher - beyond all reasonable doubt. The state must prove beyond reasonable doubt that the accused committed the crime, but - if you watch any TV - you'll know the accused is innocent until proven guilty by the state.

These are regulated by substantive law and law of procedure. Substantive law explains your rights and obligations. It is the actual content of the law. Law of procedure, as you can guess, sets out how to enforce those rights and obligations.

If you only take away one thing from this post, it should be this: Ignorance of the law is no excuse, as found in the Crimes Act 1961. Section 25 states: 'The fact that an offender is ignorant of the law is not an excuse for any offence committed by him or her'. An "I'm sorry" and batting your eyelashes won't win you any favours in the eyes of the law, sorry. You need to front up, own it, apologise, and never do it again.

Easy enough, right?

Disclaimer: the above information has been written by a law student, for law students to help them in their studies. It is in no way intended as legal advice. If you require legal advice, speak to a lawyer (their job is essentially to give advice!). I will not be responsible for any harm or loss associated with taking the legal information above and acting on it as though it were advice (which it is not!). If you have any questions or issues or do not understand the implications of this disclaimer, please get in contact with me via the ‘contact’ page.

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