What is the Rule of Law?

What is the Rule of Law?

At LexisNexis we are a keen advocate of the Rule of Law and our fundamental purpose as a company is to ‘advance the rule of law around the globe’. Following the recent launch of the LexisNexis Rule of Law Foundation and our latest LexChat podcast with James Harper, LexisNexis executive sponsor for the Rule of Law, this article takes a deeper dive into what the Rule of Law is and why it’s important.

The A V Dicey definition

There are many different definitions for the Rule of Law, whether that is between nations or legal traditions. One of the most common is the definitions in the UK was outlined by Professor A V Dicey in 1885 who broke it down into three 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

Rule of Law an easy definition

In line with Dicey’s definition, LexisNexis Rule of Law Foundation has outlined an easy memorable definition...

What is the Rule of Law

What does the rule of law mean to LexisNexis?

Opening up the Rule of Law Equation further, to LexisNexis the Rule of Law consists of four essential components:

  • everyone is equal in front of the law—it does not matter whether you are a citizen or a monarch, rich or poor, you get treated the same by the law
  • everyone has access to the published law—if you do not know what the law is, how can you seek its protection?
  • that law is administered by an independent judiciary—politicians and governments make the law, and this will always be politically influenced. The judiciary is independent and not subject to outside influence, and therefore applies the laws fairly and equally
  • that everyone has access to justice—even if you have fair laws, which are fairly applied, if you cannot get access to justice then you have no remedy

Why is the Rule of Law important?

As mentioned above, advancing the Rule of Law is LexisNexis fundamental purpose as a company—spreading the protections set out above to all people is essential for the improvement of individuals’ lives and society. It is also necessary to ensure commercial viability and success, in the UK and around the world.

The Rule of Law can be seen as the foundation of all other rights, and, without rights, nothing else works. For example, without the Rule of Law:

  • there is no contract system (and therefore how do you do business, how do you enforce your requirements, how do you make money?)
  • there is no intellectual property (and therefore how do you protect your business and assets?)
  • there is no protection against human rights abuses (and therefore do you even want to do business at all?)
  • contracts, protection of IP, human rights, investment is stunted, capital growth slows, and commerce cannot flourish

Therefore, the rule of law is not just ‘nice to have’, but a necessity for business to exist and succeed.

What is the evidence for this position?

Here at LexisNexis, we created the Rule of Law Impact Tracker to outline the reasons for the necessity of the Rule of Law. The Tracker evidences a direct correlation between the rule of law and the growth of per capita GDP—as well as this the absence of the rule of law leads to economic slow-down, stagnation and decline.

As James Harper outlined in our LexChat podcast: ‘The more the Rule of Law is advanced around the world, bringing people within the umbrella of its protection, the more economies prosper and grow, creating a virtuous circle…Prosperous and growing economies lead to stable markets [and] stable markets lead to greater business opportunity.’

As a profit-making organisation, LexisNexis craves stable markets and increased opportunity. And, as we grow our business, the larger the opportunity is for us to support initiatives which advance the rule of law.

How can you get involved?

Due to the nature of LexisNexis products and services, we have the opportunity to create real change around the world. However, every business can contribute to the growth of the rule of law through their own practices and by utilising the simple strategy we follow:

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.