Why law knowledge is fundamental in this new era?

In 2015, I enrolled for a Bachelor of Laws degree with the University of London, on a distance learning mode. At that time, I completed a bachelor’s degree in management and a master’s degree in human resources management but nevertheless, instead of taking going for a doctoral degree, I thought a lot before eventually, subscribing for a law degree. I studied at my own pace, with frequent breaks, while traveling the world and while working abroad. It was not an easy journey. The UK law standards, compared to the Mauritius law standards, are higher and as a result, passing a law module in a first sitting is a true achievement. I had to study till late nights on my own and dig into each distinct law arena by myself, without face-to-face guidance. While the University of London puts at the disposal of its students countless materials, gives access to umpteen online academic libraries, and ships reading materials, it is not enough. A law student has to look beyond what is given. Among the modules of the law degree, I grew fond of criminal law and contract law.

So far, I have told you about the nature of the law degree. Now, I will tell you the reasons why I opted for it. First and foremost, I went for a law degree to deepen my understanding of the law and to understand my rights as a human being. Secondly, it was to complement my, at that time, weak acumen of employment laws which would help me become a finer HR (Human Resources) Manager. Thirdly, I did it to help others by using my law knowledge to guide them come out through their legal problems.

Though I had those goals at the onset, the law degree served me more than I expected. I improved my legal writing drastically. Legal writing is very distinct from scientific, journalistic or academic writing. It is an area of study on its own. I got inspired to go to the BAR, which is something I may or may not consider in the future. Going to the BAR is a big decision, and it will depend on my aspirations in the next five years. I might choose to venture into the legal arenas in the future or I might choose to remain in the paralegal arenas. It will depend but it’s not an actual priority. Studying law helped me become more assertive when I speak to employees at work. I am a better counsellor. I speak based on facts. I am more confident in handling disciplinary matters. I refer to legislative provisions and interpret them in an artistic manner to employees and to management team. Law has helped me understand that each word is unique and not all words can be used interchangeably. For example, I recently conducted a presentation in view to train the management team on employment law. One of the topics that I presented was the difference between agreement and contract. Though we might think that these two words can substitute each other; they don’t, at least in a legal context. An agreement is mainly an offer and an acceptance between two parties without the intention for the agreement to bear legal weights, that is without the intention of the promise to be adjudicated by a court of law in case of breach. However a contract contains a promise, a consideration (refer to Currie v Misa for the precise definition), capacity to contract, intention to be bound, an agreement (offer and acceptance), and certainty and completeness. If I have to write, I can write pages on this but this blog post has another purpose.

So beside the initial goals which I had, studying law has helped me much more, even to become a finer person with sufficient legal acumen.

In this era, where human rights are being questioned and violated every second, knowing your rights are important. But wait, this is what people speak about: rights. What about duties? Yes, that’s the purpose of the law too. Know your duties; not just your rights. You have to remain within the purview of the law when you act or when you fail to act. Law knowledge will set you apart, will change your way of seeing things and will help you respond clearer to people. For example, if a police officer stops your car and asks for your driving permit, do you know you can ask him or her some questions before you hand-over your driving permit to him or her? Police has limited, not unlimited powers, and once we know those powers and what are our rights, we can ask the right question, be it while handing over our driving permits or while facing a search warrant.

To conclude, ignorantia juris non excusat is a legal principle holding that ignorance of the law is not an excuse. I was at the industrial court recently, for work purposes, and one of the defendant steps into the witness box whereby he failed to comply with the law with regard to his legal duties. He was still condemned. If you don’t know the law, that’s your problem. The constitution is public. It is for you to go and read. Equip and empower yourself. You don’t need to study LLB for this. Start by reading simple law books, legislative provisions, online legal materials and so forth. In short, know the law to know your rights and your duties. 

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