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.
Additional videos (member access)
Sir John Baker (as Sir Edward Coke), Downing Professor Emeritus of the Laws of England, University of Cambridge (27 October 2018) – video (ILCR members’ access only)