The Law’s Two Bodies project, conducted within the Institute of Legal and Constitutional Research, asks the question ‘what is law’, but pursues an answer in a fashion different from typical jurisprudential studies. It examines what legal practitioners do; how they regard law; to what extent they think about law in the abstract.
The title and some of the inspiration for the project comes from Sir John Baker’s book of the same name. Central to the book is the argument that ‘The common law is almost universally regarded as a system of case-law, increasingly supplemented by legislation, but this is only partly true. There is an extensive body of lawyers’ law which has a real existence outside the formal sources but is seldom acknowledged or discussed either by legal theorists or legal historians.’ Sir John’s book is historical in its focus, but that of the present project is contemporary.
The approach is ethnographic rather than philosophical or sociological. The aim is to build up a corpus of interviews with a variety of legal practitioners, concentrating on the issues outlined above.
The interviews involve a set of questions posed to all interviewees and then further questions arising from the initial answers or appropriate to each interviewee. Interviews take place in a workshop setting, with attendees from the Institute, the Student Law Society, and others including local practitioners.
At present the purpose is to stimulate thought rather than to produce any publication. The aim is to create a set of interesting case studies, rather than a carefully representative sample of practitioners.
Interviewees in the first year of the project:
David Brynmor Thomas, Barrister, 39 Essex Chambers (Friday 28 October 2016)
Malik Dahlan, Principal of Institution Quraysh for Law and Policy (Monday 7 November 2016)
Sheriff Lorna Drummond QC (Tuesday 7 March 2017)
Hugh Dillon, Deputy State Coroner, New South Wales; Committee Member, National Judicial College of Australia (Thursday 4 May 2017)