We’ve already discovered that there are numerous revision guides that can get you ahead whilst at law school or taking the first steps in relation to your law studies, but what about something a little more riveting to make the administrative process a little easier to swallow?
If we told you that by reading a novel or two during your two-year A Level law course you could be learning a huge amount about criminal law and about the history of legal matters and the federal court, would you believe us? Well, listen up, because we have found five novels related to different aspects of the constitutional and international law that are fascinating, fun and packed full of useful content when it comes to your Law A Level study programme.
Our proposal, therefore, is this: consult our mini law library below for an editorial overview of all things concerned with the legal system including liability, discipline, diversity, enforcement, lawyering.
The publishing sector is not limited to telling tales or romance or of a supernatural nature, you can also learn much from legal writing presented as a catalog of novels.
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When we talk about using distinguished novels as revision, we don’t mean that you should just have a brief read of the back of a few books in libraries and name drop the titles and themes during your exam. To truly understand the content, the impact of law on the characters and how these cases influenced the development of the justice system, you must read the stories with a fine toothcomb, enabling you to use examples of scenarios featured in the novels to back up your responses to exam questions.
Of course, your law exam isn’t designed to be a literary analysis, but what harm can it do to have more knowledge and reasoning to use to wow the examiner? Plus, reading books is fun and engaging so you could even use this revision method as a way to unwind after a hard day studying!
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Billy Budd, Sailor
by Herman Melville
This classic novel by Melville tells a simple tale but establishes perfectly the divide between law and justice.
With a gay subtext, Billy Budd is being harassed by the officer, Claggart, and attacks him bringing upon fateful consequences. The novel is about duty and morality and presents the author’s obvious fascination with the law and how it limited individuality.
Readers may not be aware that the author’s father-in-law was linked to the justice system as a Chief Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court in Massachusetts, which will no doubt have fed his obsession with legal subjects.
A gripping story, readers will be shocked by the execution of the seaman protagonist and will want to follow the journey of the story to its final outcome, discovering the physical and psychological battles that the characters face throughout.
Sparknotes, a website dedicated to revising Literature, highlights the key themes of Billy Budd, Sailor, which are Conscience Versus Law, The Individual Versus Society and The Vulnerability Of Innocence.
It explains in simple terms how one’s inner feelings are very separated by one’s social obligations, with the character Vere following the rules of the law instead of his heart when prosecuting Billy.
His position of responsibility to the obeyance of the Mutiny Act means that he is put under great pressure by the justice system and allows the law to dictate society rather than the goodness of individuals. While it is morally wrong, Vere condemns an innocent person.
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To Kill a Mockingbird
by Harper Lee
Everybody has heard of this famous novel, but many may not have noticed its relevance to injustice and racial minorities. Now that we are more conscious of these issues, it is a fascinating read and one which shows just how needed the Civil Rights Act was.
‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ is a valuable read for law students. Photo credit: Bruna Ferrara; on VisualHunt.com
Lawyers will be drawn to the character Atticus Finch because of how good he was at his extremely difficult job.
The book explores the ethics of human beings, comparing those that are naturally good and those who are pure evil.
From a perspective of childhood innocence, the author explores the differences in social status across the hierarchical society and how this affects individuals. The rigid divisions are shown to be shocking and destructive whilst the children’s comprehension of the adult world critiques the role of social class and human prejudice.
The Just and the Unjust
by James Gould Cozzens
The Just and the Unjust is lesser-known than the previous on our list, but this makes it somewhat more of a good read. It tells the realistic story of a small-town lawyer in the 1930s and portrays the time and place perfectly.
The ABA Journal states that this novel by Cozzens “hints at the inevitable rites of passage that the characters will go through as a three-day murder trial unfolds in their town. This crime, along with two other disparate legal subplots (sex crimes by a schoolteacher and a fatal car accident), touch upon a laundry list of modern social problems: drug dealing, gang-like violence and sex crimes, among others. In the backdrop of these legal proceedings are the political and personal relationships that drive the story’s subtle ruminations about right and wrong.”
A Married Man
by Piers Paul Read
Although currently out of print, you can still get your hands on second-hand copies of this timeless novel.
A serious story about a middle-aged London-based lawyer who is lured into having an affair, it has underlying themes that can be appreciated by all and so make it a book in the public interest.
The author reflects on the moral crisis in one man’s life along with the decline in the country. Photo on VisualHunt
In the novel, the author Piers Paul Read attempts to compare the moral, mid-life crisis in one man’s life with the decline in the wider environment around him.
During this novel, the barrister protagonist Strickland is exploring his dual identity as a lawyer and his impending position in parliament, but his own questioning of his identity runs through the entire novel urging us to ask ourselves who we are.
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Aside from his affair with another woman, key themes include strikes and political crisis.
Snow Falling on Cedars
by David Guterson
As identified by Sparknotes, the author “uses words such as mystery, fate, accident, happenstance, and coincidence to describe the inhuman, uncontrollable, and unknowable forces that govern the universe. […] The characters in the novel continuously struggle to exert their own will against such impersonal and random forces. This struggle sometimes entails learning to accept what they cannot change”.
This last novel displays prejudice about Asian-Americans in a small town in Washington. Photo on Visualhunt
In the novel, a reporter tells the tale of a trial he is covering, capturing the characters and courtroom superbly.
This fascinating book takes readers to the heart of living in a political community, covering such issues as trial and racial prejudice.
It is almost impossible to find a novel that is focused solely on legislative matters because let’s face it, authors need to sell their work with a good backstory and a plain old story about the goings on in the supreme court may not become a bestseller. This is why novels are probably only good as a secondary revision resource and should be used in conjunction with other revision methods.
The benefit of using these embellished stories in your scholarly studies, however, is that they provide interesting and intellectual accounts of how regulation governs society and has done for many years, whilst giving you some great comparative sources to cite about governance across the decades when being examined as part of your legal education.
Take all of the advice from the tutors and peers leading your legal studies when it comes to revision guides, websites, and other tools as they will have the best philosophy on how to pass the exam and get set for the bar association.
That said, don’t underestimate the power that a really well-known case (whether made up or a true story) can have on your own principle judgment, ability to form an argument and answers!
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