Lawyers and the Rest

I completed my LL.B in 1987, practiced as a solicitor for a few years, and became a barrister in 1992, practising as such until I left South Africa in 2002. During that time I was constantly surrounded by other lawyers, and the black-letter approach was a given. The law was there to be obeyed. One could seek to change it, or perhaps give it a new creative interpretation, but the ‘motive’ was never explored. The ‘intention of the legislature’ was a myth created as an aid to interpretation. There was not enough deliberation about the law’s place in greater society, as a constitutuent of people’s lives.

When I emigrated to Ireland, I discontinued my practice, and elected to teach instead. My students were not all law students, in fact most of them were anything but. A fascinating new world opened up as these students were asking not so much what the law said, but why would it be saying such a thing? What were they thinking when they made that law? How could anybody in their right mind write such a convoluted statute and expect anybody to follow it? Initially I defended the law like the good positivist that I was, but it was a lot more fun looking at the law like a non-lawyer and trying to answer those questions.

I am hoping to do the same on this blog. Just what were they thinking when they wrote / enacted / pronounced that?Image

About Neil van Dokkum

Neil van Dokkum (B. SocSc; LLB; LLM; PGC Con.Lit) Neil is a law lecturer and has been so since arriving in Ireland from South Africa in 2002. Prior to that Neil worked in a leading firm of solicitors from 1987-1992, before being admitted as an Advocate of the Supreme Court of South Africa (a barrister) in 1992. He published three books in South Africa on employment law and unfair dismissal, as well as being published in numerous national and international peer-reviewed journals. Neil currently specialises in employment law, medical negligence law, family law and child protection law. He dabbles in EU law (procurement and energy). Neil retired from practice in 2002 to take up a full-time lecturing post. He has published three books since then, “Nursing Law for Irish Students (2005); “Evidence” (2007); and “Nursing Law for Students in Ireland” (2011). He is an accredited and practising mediator and is busy writing a book, with Dr Sinead Conneely, on Mediation in Ireland. His current interest is Ireland’s energy policy and its impact on the people and the environment. He is also researching the area of disability as a politico-economic construct. Neil is very happily married to Fiona, and they have two sons, Rory and Ian.
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