As a student studying Law at University, it certainly isn't the easiest of subjects, and can often lead to numerous sleepless nights trying to complete seminar homework, or knuckling down on a new assignment. I have endless amounts of textbooks lined up on my desk, various revision guides and numerous essay-help books, but, until now, no dictionary. Foolishly, the thought of owning a Law dictionary had never crossed my mind, and I'm sure if you too are/were a Law student reading this, you'll wonder how I ever got buy without such an invaluable aid. Admittedly, I got by fine without a Law dictionary, and did very well in my end-of-year Law examinations, but since actually owning one, I couldn't be without it.
Every September, I take an annual trip to my local 'Waterstones' bookstore to purchase new textbooks ready for the new term, but it was whilst I was browsing through stationary in 'Paperchase' that I came across 'The Oxford Dictionary of Law'. For some reason, I had never owned one of these - and now, I couldn't live without it. The dictionary was half-price, and at just £6, was a complete bargain.
WHERE CAN I PURCHASE IT?
You can by 'The Oxford Dictionary of Law' from most major bookstores, and also websites such as 'Amazon', 'eBay', etc. I bought mine from 'Paperchase', and it happened to be on sale at half-price, costing me a very cheap £6. A lot of students worry about how much money they have to spend on legal textbooks, and 'skip over' many of the recommended helpful aids. For just £6 (this book is on sale on Amazon's website for £6 also), it'll be one of the most-used books you'll own! You could also try looking on websites such as www.thestudentroom.co.uk, where students past & present sell their old books for very cheap prices. Just do some shopping around, and you'll soon find one at a price which is more tailored to your budget.
IS IT EASY TO USE?
I would say the dictionary is incredibly easy to use. Like all dictionary's, this it set out in alphabetical order, and therefore you can quickly locate what it is your looking for by simply using the first letter, e.g. 'mens rea' comes under the 'M' category. With regard to the term I just used as my example - 'mens rea' - you will find several other Latin terms which constantly crop up in the subject of Law, and is probably my biggest 'downfall' area, as it's difficult to remember how to spell the phrases correctly, let alone remember them!
If you've used standard dictionaries before with ease, then you will be able to use this Law dictionary in exactly the same way.
DOES IT MATTER WHAT AREAS OF LAW I'M STUDYING?
Right now, I'm studying Property Law (Land Law), EU Law, Criminal Law, Freedom of Expression, and Equality Law. I have previously studied Contract Law, Tort Law, and Constitutional Law (as core modules). This dictionary covers just about everything you will need to know in each subject, from 'teaching' you about parliamentary privilege to informing you about landfill tax. I can honestly say that everything I've needed to check has been covered within the pages of this dictionary. It will in no way substitute any textbook, but it does give helpful definitions (as a dictionary should!) about legal areas.
The 'Oxford Dictionary of Law' also includes numerous acts, such as ' The Data Protection Act 1998', 'The Obscene Publications Act', 'The Official Secrets Act', etc. There aren't many, but there are certainly enough to help you discover more about statutes you are needing to research. The dictionary also contains 'Theories of Punishment', 'Adoption Law', 'Statement of Terms & Employment'.
WHO CAN MAKE USE OF THIS DICTIONARY?
This dictionary hasn't just been made for students studying Law, or solicitors and barristers. The dictionary can be used amongst a wide variety of people - accountants, social workers etc, who may need to learn some aspects of the law during their respective careers. It can also be used by members of the public who wish to know more about their rights and discover more about how they are affected as consumers, motorists etc. If you are going through a divorce, you can use the dictionary to really understand what terms mean exactly; it might just help your divorce run a little smoother, and assist when you're meeting with your solicitor. Legal secretaries will find the dictionary useful, also. You may also want to use this dictionary to simply 'brush up' and refresh your legal jargon.
CAN I USE IT INSTEAD OF BUYING A TEXT BOOK?
No. 'The Oxford Dictionary of Law' is to be used as an aid to studying. I can almost guarantee that if you attempt to pass Law solely by using the dictionary, you will not do as well as you'd hoped! The dictionary is an aid to your studies and should only be used as that. It will certainly benefit you during your time spent studying Law as a student, but it would be foolish and un-wise to attempt to use this alone.
IS IT PAPERBACK OR HARDBACK?
The dictionary which I purchased is a paperback edition, which I prefer as it makes carrying the dictionary simpler, as well as flicking through the pages to locate what I'm searching for.
DOES THE DICTIONARY INCLUDE ANYTHING ELSE?
The dictionary includes a section in the back containing various websites (free) which include advice, legislation etc. This is perfect for any law student and any solicitor or barrister who want to keep their knowledge on legislation fresh and up to date. It also includes a very helpful section, also at the back of the dictionary, explaining what abbrieviations used in the dictionary actually mean, e.g. CMLR = Common Market Law Reports, EJIL = European Journal of International Law, CC = County Council. If you don't understand an abbrieviation, flick to the back of the dictionary and it's clearly translated for you. If I struggle with a particular abbrieviation, I write it somewhere on my desk on a sticky-note, and it soon sets solid into my brain.
The best part about the dictionary is it contains a helpful guide on how to actually write legal essays - 'answer the question, make an argument, be critical' - each paragraph has a clear explanation on how to tackle each area correctly and strongly. It informs you on how to organise your essays, and how to structure your paragraphs. I have one or perhaps two books on how to write effective law essays, but everything is condensed into a few pages in this dictionary and is extremely helpful to students who may have absolutely no idea on how to begin writing essays in Law. It informs you what kind of terminology to avoid, and also tells you how to cite your work effectively.
POSITIVES AND NEGATIVES
It's only fair when reviewing a product to ensure you cover every aspect of what it is you're reviewing, so here is my list of the positives and negatives of 'The Oxford Dictionary of Law':
- Firstly, it's cheap. Even at full price (£12), it's cheaper than other dictionaries out there, and this one is of excellent standard.
- I have always been able to locate what I'm looking for within the dictionary. It even tells you what it presumes you're looking for - e.g, if you're looking for 'pact', it will tell you to 'see TREATY', which is the correct term to use.
- It's invaluable. I use my dictionary constantly when I'm writing assignments, or completing seminar homework. I even use it if I'm reading the newspaper/watching television and I hear something legal-related which I don't fully understand.
- Many textbooks have a glossary, which are helpful. I use glossaries in textbooks often, as the definition you're looking for is often contained within the glossary, but the glossaries are never exhaustive and will never include everything you need to know. The dictionary is almost 600 pages long, so is a lot more reliable.
- The back of the dictionary contains an 'Online Legal Resources' section, which I think is incredibly helpful. It lists various free websites, including websites containing legislation, which are constantly updated. It also lists websites which give free advice on day-to-day legal matters.
- Abbrievitations used are clearly translated in the back of the dictionary.
- It is fairly small, and thanks to it being a paperback edition, it is light enough to carry with you.
- It is a 2009 edition, and consequently very up-to-date!
- You can rely on it. You know that what is included in the dictionary is correct. Using the Internet to research definitions is fine, but the definition may have been written by someone from another country and therefore their laws do not apply to ours here in England.
- It includes several pages on how to write legal essays effectively, and how and when to use citations etc. This is ideal for students starting to study Law, and for those who are less than confident about their writing style.
- Scottish students, or those having to follow Scottish Law, will most probably find that this dictionary is (almost) useless, as English Law and Scottish Law is very different.
- It's important to note that law is forever changing and therefore some of your dictionary will inevitably end up being out of date. However, most of the technical legal language will always stay the same, and therefore it will always be a useful study companion!
- You can use the Internet to find definitions of words you do not understand. However, some definitions are written by Americans according to their law in America, and therefore don't apply to our law here.
It may sound slightly odd, but I actually enjoy reading this dictionary! I have a passion for Law (which is helpful, seeing as I'm working towards qualifying as a solicitor), and if on one (very rare) evening when I have nothing else to occupy myself with, I enjoy reading this. It's amazing how much jargon I come across every day, and yet how little I truly understand every single term I regularly use. The 'Oxford Dictionary of Law', however, is most useful when I am completing seminar homework. With a textbook and my dictionary in front of me, I can make sure I truly understand and can grasp every single legal phrase/term I didn't previously understand, rather than just simply scanning over it and thinking 'I'll learn what that means later'. I now force myself to flick through the dictionary, discover exactly what it means, and write it down on a 'cue card' for future reference. My desk at the moment is completely covered with sticky notes and cue cards, filled with scribbled definitions! They're brilliant revision resources, though, and come in handy later on in the year when it comes to revision time (which, for me, revision time generally begins as soon as term starts!).
'The Oxford Dictionary of Law' is easy to read, easy to use, and as you can see from my list of 'Positives and Negatives' above in this review, the positives clearly outweigh the benefits! For as little as £6, what have you got to lose?
I really would recommend this dictionary for anyone who is studying Law, whether at A-Level or degree-level like myself. Those who are already qualified as solicitors or barristers will also find this dictionary useful - it is an absolute must for anyone wishing to study Law and really get to grips with legal terminology which is so often confusing and difficult to understand. As written on the top of the dictionary's cover, 'if legal language is a fog, this is a valuable flashlight' - Times Educational Supplement.
Thanks for reading. Sonic4290.