Published on October 2, 2019 by Lauren Wade

Legal Theory, or Jurisprudence, as it is also known, refers to the theoretical study of law and is a key topic of study law degrees such as the LLB law degree.

It constitutes the principles and body of rules that are enforceable in a court of law.

The subject underpins all specific legal areas, and so provides new law students with a solid foundation on the English legal system.

You will delve into the fundamentals of contract, criminal and constitutional and administrative law in your first-year lectures and seminars. You will also be exploring legal methods and the English legal system.

All of these subjects are paired with learning and understanding legal theory. Together, these will enable you to gain a full picture of how we have reached the collection of legislation and case law that we have in our modern landscape.

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Why do We Study Legal Theory?

Legal theory aims to provide a backdrop to the legal, moral, philosophical and societal influences impacting the English legal system.

By providing this knowledge, the subject matter strives to increase students’ critical awareness of the challenges and complexities affecting the legal environment.

Law students will analyse and develop a critical approach to abstract arguments. These studies will take place alongside assessing authorities and attitudes to explore areas of law.

During your studies, you’ll have to evaluate these laws from their roots to contemporary considerations regarding their position in the modern framework.

What Topics Can You Expect to Study?

Throughout your law degree, your introduction and ongoing development of legal theory, teaching and thinking will be based on a selection of fundamental topics. They include:

  • Natural law theory and criticisms
  • Legal positivism and criticisms
  • Legal reasoning, liberalism
  • Feminist jurisprudence
  • Moral interpretivist theories of law

You will be presented with questions relating to:

  • What is law?
  • What is the nature of law?
  • What is its position and place within society?
  • How does law-making take place?
  • How the overall English legal system exists as a series of rules and as an established institution enforced for the benefit of society

You’ll also analyse and debate fairness, justice and moral ideals in the area of legal theory.

If you’re starting the first year of your law degree and are completely new to formal legal training, it is a good idea to dedicate extra reading time to legal theory – due to its prominence and applicability to a wide range of legal areas.

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How Will Legal Theory Help with Your Law Degree?

After studying law theory, you will gain insights into dominant legal, societal and political philosophical concepts and how they interact with law.

Teaching in the form of lectures and law tutorials will centre around these theories and associated criticisms. At university, you will also explore how these legal theories impact the English legal system, both in the past and in the present day.

During the study of law theory, students will acquire knowledge on the history, methodologies, criticism and standardised questions surrounding legal theories.

Equipped with this information, students will then be able to create and apply abstract philosophical debates, present philosophical arguments and critically evaluate theories and the assumptions that form their bases.

Words: Natasha Spencer-Jolliffe

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