Legal Culture: Definition and Meaning

A comparison of fundamentally dissimilar legal systems can be used to study legal cultures. Such cultures can also be distinguished from those that share a common foundation and history but are currently affected by other forces that promote cultural change. In order to better comprehend how the law functions in society, students study legal culture. The study of law and society could be said to be this.

What is Legal Culture?

Legal culture refers to the shared values, beliefs, and norms that shape a society's approach to law and justice. It can include things like attitudes towards the role of the legal system, the relationship between citizens and the state, and the legal profession. Legal culture can vary widely between different countries and regions, and can change over time within a given society. It can also be influenced by factors such as history, political system, economic development, and level of social trust.

Lawrence M. Friedman defines Legal culture as "the network of beliefs and attitudes connected to law, which influences when, why, and where people turn to law or government, or turn away." A scholarly area that sits on the dividing line between comparative law and historical jurisprudence examines comparative legal cultures. The main topics of historical studies of European "cultures of law" have been the problem of elucidating the context in which law operates, as well as how to comprehend the expectations and perceptions of law, justice, and authority among members of various groups who used legal norms, tools, and forums.

Elements of Legal Culture

Following are the significant elements of legal culture −

Attitudes towards the rule of law: This can include beliefs about the importance of following laws, the role of the legal system in society, and the relationship between citizens and the state.

Legal tradition: This can refer to the historical and cultural influences that shape a society's approach to law and justice. For example, the common law tradition in countries like the United States and the United Kingdom is different from the civil law tradition in countries like France and Germany.

Legal profession: This can include things like the role of lawyers, the training and education of legal professionals, and the relationship between lawyers and clients.

Legal education: This can include the type of legal education that is available in a society, the curriculum and teaching methods used, and the impact of legal education on the development of legal culture.

Access to justice: This can include factors such as the availability of legal representation, the cost of legal services, and the effectiveness of the legal system in protecting the rights of citizens.

Public opinion: This can include the attitudes of citizens towards the legal system and their willingness to engage with it.

Legal norms and values: This can include the shared beliefs and values that shape a society's approach to law and justice, such as the importance of human rights, the rule of law, and equality before the law.

Legal cultures in the West and Everywhere Else

The systematic reliance on legal notions characterises the entire Western legal culture. Corporations, contracts, estates, rights, and powers are a few examples of such constructs. These ideas are not only absent from old or archaic legal systems, but they may also be largely incapable of being expressed in the linguistic systems that serve as the foundation for such legal cultures.

In general, it may be said that the idea of legal culture depends on language and symbols, and any attempt to examine non-western legal systems in terms of modern western legal categories might lead to distortion because of linguistic disparities. Legal notions or ancient and archaic law hence derive their meaning from sensory experience based on facts rather than theory or abstraction, even though they are unique to classical Roman, modern civil, and common law societies. The former group's legal culture is thus influenced by academics, knowledgeable professionals, and historically, philosophers. The culture of the latter group is fundamentally shaped by its views, values, and religion.

The Islamic legal system is a prime example of how law operates within a larger culture where ideas like knowledge, right, and human nature are important. The ethnographic, procedural, and judicial discretion components of taking a case to court in Sefrou, Morocco, are explained in a case study by Lawrence Rosen. The case study clarifies the underlying principles of Islamic civilization that influence Islamic legal culture and set it apart from western legal cultures.

Significance of Legal Culture

These includes −

Shaping the way laws are interpreted and applied: Legal culture can influence the way that laws are interpreted by judges and other legal professionals, which can affect the outcome of legal cases and the protection of individual rights.

Influencing the development of law: Legal culture can shape the way that laws are created and changed, as well as the priorities that are given to different legal issues.

Affecting access to justice: Legal culture can influence the availability of legal representation and the cost of legal services, which can affect a society's ability to protect the rights of citizens.

Impacting the relationship between citizens and the state: Legal culture can shape the way that citizens view the legal system and their relationship to it, which can affect the level of trust and cooperation between citizens and the state.

Shaping the legal profession: Legal culture can influence the role and perception of legal professionals, the way they are trained and educated, and their relationship with clients.

Impacting the effectiveness of the legal system: Legal culture can affect the effectiveness of a society's legal system in protecting the rights of citizens, ensuring fairness, and promoting justice.

Serving as an indicator of a society's overall culture: Legal culture can serve as an indicator of a society's overall culture, including its history, values, beliefs and the level of social trust.


It is clear that social, economic, and political variables can affect legal culture and cause it to evolve. While some aspects of society and international relations might benefit from the transition, established cultural practises risk extinction. The tight courtroom etiquette and rigid procedural procedures that are ingrained in western legal traditions open the door for a more organic conflict settlement method. In Morocco, a qadi (judge judicial)'s interrogation and discretion are influenced by a person's social background, relationships, and identity.


Q1. What is the legal culture?

Ans. The legal structures and procedures that make up a state's legal system are only one aspect of legal tradition. It also includes the legal culture that emerges inside a state based on the legal system's historical roots and societal ideas of the proper function of the rule of law.

Q2. Is there a culture of law?

Ans. A law firm's work environment is shaped by a number of interconnected aspects that make up its culture. These elements may include of a firm's basic beliefs, communication standards, time and production requirements for attorneys, professional development opportunities, social bonds between coworkers, and decision-making process.

Q3. What two elements make up legal culture?

Ans. Legal culture around the world is categorised into Roman-Germanic legal culture, common law legal culture, socialist legal culture, and others or non-Western legal culture based on the standards of the two notions of "legal system" and "legal tradition."

Q4. Which three legal traditions dominate today?

Ans. But in our modern society, three main legal systems—civil, common, and religious—dominate. We must examine the formation of each legal system's foundation in order to comprehend its original differences.

Updated on: 21-Feb-2023


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