The Invisible Rule Of Law
Prior to the festival, we’ve been working closely with one of our sponsors, Weightmans, and we’ve asked them to comment on the September event and what opaque legal rules exist. Sophie Hudson, a solicitor at the office in Leeds, shared her thoughts with us.
Most of us go through life without giving the “invisible” (unwritten) rules of law we abide by much thought. Take, for example, the humble shopping trolley. We push the trolley around the supermarket and once we have paid we wheel it to the car to offload the bags (or, if we are considering the environment, just the items themselves). What do we do next? If we are following the invisible rules we will return the trolley to a designated and signposted area before we feel at liberty to go on our way. The mere fact that the trolley has somewhere to be returned to suggests the existence of an unspoken rule that we are expected to take that next step. And if we don’t conform? By leaving the shopping trolley abandoned in the middle of the car park we are breaking the invisible rule of law. On the other hand, there is no doubt we will give the notion of breaking an actual (written) law, such as leaving without paying a great deal of thought, not least the inevitable consequences. So why are we not conscious of the invisible rules to the same degree?
Perhaps the answer is that we know that the consequences will be limited; no one will demand return of the trolley and someone is employed to tidy up at the end of the day. The worst we can expect is perhaps a hard stare from other (more conscientious) shoppers selfishly breaking the rules out of laziness, without considering the potential for chaos if everyone did the same. Taken to its extreme failing (or refusing) to follow these invisible rules may ultimately have a negative impact on our wider society. However, if we have the power to break the rules to negative effect, does it not follow that that we can change the rules to positive effect as well?
“If we are following the invisible rules we will return the trolley to a designated and signposted area before we feel at liberty to go on our way. The mere fact that the trolley has somewhere to be returned to suggests the existence of an unspoken rule that we are expected to take that next step.”Sophie Hudson
Unlike our written rules the invisible rule of law is not set in stone; it is flexible, and malleable. Our actions, as individuals and as a society, mold those unwritten rules. How we conduct ourselves, and how we judge others in their conduct (rightly or wrongly), changes society around us, albeit in subtle and incremental ways. That said, ultimately, the ability to change the boundaries of what is deemed acceptable and what is not rests with us.
The environment is a case in point. For many years voices raised in warning of impending climate change resulted in dismissive eye rolling from many, but now societies across the globe are starting to actively change behaviours with invisible rules shifting in a positive way. In the UK views on the environmental impact of our way of life are changing to such an extent that what went before is now no longer seen as acceptable. Effectively, our voices changed the invisible rules.
So, where will this lead us? What else needs changing, for the benefit of us all? All we need to do is see the possibility…
Join us and Rob Rinder in discussing the above as part of #LIFI23, you can find more about this event HERE.