Learning your legal rights is not something you spend time understanding at school, or really in adulthood for that matter. Unfortunately, it’s usually when we are on the right or wrong side of the law that we get a crash course in legal rights, and sometimes that’s too late. We believe that these important legal foundations are not relevant to our daily lives, but we couldn’t be more wrong when considering the many areas of our life that law intersects with.
If you are experiencing some legal trouble, trying to make sense of a contract or about to embark on a big life change – you need to seek legal advice and understand your rights before making any decisions. Here is a clear guide on how you might start to learn your legal rights.
Firstly, what sort of law and legal advice are you looking for?
The legal advice you receive is going to vary based on the area you are pursuing, so you need to first get clear on what kind of legal practise you need. The key legal practise areas would be family law, criminal law, commercial law, will/estate law, intervention orders, litigation and debt/solvency law. Beyond these foundations, you have legal experts that can specialise in property, media and really any other legal niche you might require. Appreciating the different disciplines will set you up to seek the most relevant guidance, and from there you can select a legal practice that specialises in that area.
Understand, question and discuss your legal rights before you make a decision.
If you are in a workplace and experiencing or witnessing bullying, discrimination, sexual harassment or any issue that you know is against the law – you want to speak with the relevant management team with an understanding of what is against the law in your state and country to give your claims some clout and urgency. You also want to ideally have an understanding of your workplaces code of conduct so that you can use that as a launch point to question, discuss and likely report this behaviour. Workplace law is a very busy industry, and you will be able to find a lot of information about these laws on government websites, FairWork, as well as in your employee contract.
Looking at family law is different again. You want to understand these laws before you make a decision that could harm your case later down the track of have you committing a crime legally even if you were unaware. Taking your child to another state for a spontaneous holiday might not be what you have agreed to with your dual-custody arrangement, which is why you want to be clarifying your legal rights before it is too late.
Talk to a lawyer and be committed to broadening your knowledge of legal rights in all areas of your life.
It’s not realistic that you would sit down and consume all relevant laws that apply to your life and then vow to remember them all. You are better off making an appointment with a lawyer that you need to see, and broadening your knowledge from there. Your workplace might even have a legal team in the office who could be a great source of information about other legal rights you have always wondered about. You also want to be reading terms, no matter how long they are or how small the print is – as you will begin to familiarise yourself with the legal language and what is to be expected in any given context. Start with your employee contract, home loan or rental agreement, marriage licence and anything that might be on hand and is personal enough to pique your interest and understanding.
Learning your legal rights might not be the sexiest of research, but it is probably going to be the most helpful in your life. Make a commitment to understanding your rights so that you can protect yourself and those you love.