No one is above the law—the importance of advancing the rule of law

No one is above the law—the importance of advancing the rule of law

No one is above the law.

It might sound like a line from the latest Hollywood blockbuster movie, but the idea that “no one is above the law” underpins the whole of today’s legal system and is the essence of the rule of law.

The rule of law, as outlined by Professor A V Dicey in 1885, can be broken down into three main concepts:

  • no man could be lawfully interfered or punished by the authorities except for breaches of law established in the ordinary manner before the courts of land
  • no man is above the law and everyone, whatever his condition or rank is, is subject to the ordinary laws of the land
  • the result of the ordinary law of the land is constitution

September of this year saw the very concept of upholding the rule of law values in the UK challenged when Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, considered ‘deliberately’ breaking the law in order to see Brexit through. But this challenge to the rule of law only brushes the surface of a much wider issue.

LexisNexis Rule of Law Foundation identified that “57% of the world’s population live outside the shelter of the law—struggling for basic, human rights on a daily basis”. From the lack of access to justice, to the direct correlation (found by the Rule of Law Impact Tracker) between the absence of the rule of law and economic slow-down, stagnation and decline, it’s clear this is not a crisis that can be solved overnight or by one individual.

Advancing the rule of law

LexisNexis is devoted to advancing the rule of law and has been working hard to do so. Its efforts have been recognised by the United Nations and will see Mike Walsh, CEO of LexisNexis Legal & Professional, receive a Global Leadership Award from the United Nations Foundation in recognition of the company's contributions to advancing the rule of law globally.

Mike Walsh has noted that: “Our people can see the clear connection between advancing the rule of law and creating a better society. Five billion people in the world today live outside the umbrella protection of the rule of law, making them vulnerable to human rights abuses, violence and conflict. We’re working with customers, businesses and organisations like the United Nations to strengthen legal infrastructures and support advances in the rule of law that will improve lives.”

Core to LexisNexis value system is being able to strengthen the following:

  • equality under the law—as it does not matter whether you are a citizen or monarch you should be treated equally
  • transparency of law—because without knowing what the law is, how can you see its protection?
  • independent judiciaries—ensuring there is no outside influence, applying the law fairly and equally
  • accessible legal remedy—as having fair laws, which are fairly applied, means nothing if you have no access to justice

With these principles driving it forward, LexisNexis has made many contributions to advancing the rule of law. The contributions span from providing a legal and news database contains 109 billion documents and records ensuring transparency into the law in more than 130 countries, to helping mobilise the business community to proactively engage in the rule of law with projects, such as the United Nations Global Compact’s Business for the Rule of Law Framework (B4ROL). Using its tech skills to develop individual tools that make complex processes more straightforward—by way of an example, we will shortly be piloting a digital version of the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) form with a handful of partner clinics.

Why is the rule of law so important?

The rule of law is not only important to LexisNexis, but it is the foundation to all other rights. Without it nothing else functions. For example, there would be:

  • no contract system—and therefore how do you do business, how do you enforce your requirements, how do you make money?
  • no intellectual property—and therefore how do you protect your business and assets?
  • no protection against human rights abuses—and therefore do you even want to do business at all?
  • a failure of contracts, protection of IP, human rights, investment is stunted, capital growth slows and commerce

Therefore, the rule of law itself is not just ‘nice to have’, but a necessity for business to exist and succeed. However, for the rule of law to flourish, ensuring individuals, lives and society are improved, action is required.

How can you help advance the rule of law?

Advancing the rule of law is not difficult, but it does take action. You may not have the same products and services as LexisNexis, but every business can help contribute to growing the rule of law through their own practices and by utilising the simple strategy LexisNexis follows:

1. How can we use the assets that we have as a business?

2. How can we work with and support carefully selected partners?

By using this approach, any business can support the rule of law and make a real difference, without necessarily making new funds available but by leveraging existing assets in new ways.

More examples of what companies are doing to advance the rule of law can be found in the Business for the Rule of Law Framework.

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About the author:

Hannah is one of the Future of Law blog’s digital and technical editors. She graduated from Northumbria University with a degree in History and Politics and previously freelanced for News UK, before working as a senior news editor for LexisNexis.