Love and Law: Relationships from a Legal Perspective
Studying law is like moulding your mind into new shape. It’s now warped, and sees the world in a different way. Years of torts, land law, criminal, public, trusts, and equity all day, work to create a new person. You now see in Matrix code – it’s like ‘You 2.0’.
Now you know how to argue the parking ticket. You also know exactly what level of consumer guarantee you’re getting when the shopkeeper says “it’ll last a long time”, you’ll trawl databases for cases analogous to your tenancy disputes and even (try to) tell your drunk friends all about whether they have requisite mens rea for doing whatever stupid act they’re about to do.
But relationships aren’t like that. Here are a few things I’ve noticed about approaching relationships from a law perspective…
There’s no such thing as precedent
Romance has no precedent. When dealing with our own conflicts we have to unlearn IRAC. It’s scary, I know, and I wish it didn’t have to be this way. But it’s really important to remember that whatever fight/issue happened to Jason and Emma, does not set a rule at all, and is totally unpersuasive in terms of resolving your own. It’s like an analogous case from another jurisdiction. Inter-relationship precedent doesn’t count, and of course, whatever anyone else thinks or says about your situation is total obiter too. In a law world where the authoritative answers are always somewhere other than you, it took me a while to adjust to this.
Standards and objectivity do not apply
Relationship conflict? Don’t try to approach it like a legal analysis. If they feel you’ve ‘breached a standard’, and you think ‘objectively’ you haven’t, it doesn’t give you licence to say ‘I haven’t breached it’. If they’re upset, they’re upset. Talk to them about why, bust some of those negotiation skills and figure it out. Objectivity and application of ‘rules’ will not help you like it will in the courtroom.
Being right all the time is completely wrong
At law school, we spend all this time trying to prove things. Everything has a burden and a standard, some conceptual ‘level’ that can be surpassed, making something actionable. But your partner or friends simply don’t care about the slammin’ authority you’ve come up with to win an argument. Or a bet. Or a casual discussion. Don’t try to be right all the time!
I know you would love to argue. I know you think you’re right. If the person is within ballpark, then just accept it. I’ve had to learn how to hear something, know it’s wrong, and for the sake of conversation and social flow, just accept it. I know, right? Grin and bear it if you have to. In no situation ever is it worth the argument I know you would love to have.
A lot of the time I used to run to the legal databases for solutions to my problems. But each time I find that there’s no practice area for ‘law student relationships’.
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