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Should you focus on memorizing the individual laws, or read court cases, or come up with scenarios? Should you study from the point of view of a lawyer or an individual citizen? What if laws change? What is most applicable to real life?

Most importantly: where can you find all this information? Are there textbooks, or do you have to comb through the internet yourself, or is there a website where all this information is organized?

Thank you T_T

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    Depends a lot on why you want to know about it and for what purpose. There isn't one right answer. – ohwilleke Sep 18 at 0:01
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    There are many different "fields" of law... contract law, patent law, criminal law, employment/labor law, family law, environmental law, etc... – Ron Beyer Sep 18 at 1:34
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    The answer probably depends on what you want to accomplish with this study. There are of course plenty of textbooks to get you started. – bdb484 Sep 18 at 3:04
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    This is for all 3 of the comments above. As someone who has taught, a different subject, at a university level, and who has spent time observing others teach, I should point out that teaching a subject and practicing a subject are entirely different skills. A good understanding of the subject is important, but a comment which boils down to "it's complicated" does not elucidate the topic to a would-be learner. Please, be mindful of that. The OP did clearly ask for an introductory point. Please, be gentle rather than dismissive or overwhelming. – grovkin Sep 18 at 13:59
  • I agree with the first three commenters -- the more we know about you, your background, your interests and your goals, the better our advice. So: What is your background? College? Job? Age? What do do you already know about law? How much time are you planning to devote to this project? Is there any particular question or issue that got you interested? What do you want to come away with? A broad overview of American law? The ability to figure out more about any law or case you hear about? – Just a guy Sep 19 at 2:43
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If you want to study the basics of law, where should you start?

Don't try memorizing individual laws. That would be a waste of energy, in part because --as you rightly point out-- laws change. There are many introductory books. Law 101, by Jay M. Feinman, is an excellent starting point.

The next step --broadly speaking-- consists of reading court decisions (aka court opinions). Opinions released by upper (aka reviewing) courts are available online for free. If you are interested in jurisdictions in the US, Leagle.com is one of many very good resources; EU cases are available here; and so forth.

Acquainting yourself with court opinions is quite beneficial. First, court opinions [collaterally] teach how to formulate one's legal positions. Rather than merely being formulaic and a copycat, a litigant is to convey that his legal position is more consistent (compared to the adversary) with the laws and underlying doctrines. His points are easier to get across by adapting his presentation thereof to how courts are used to handle the legal principles involved.

Second, court opinions identify the statutes that are relevant to the type of disputes that arise between parties. This is indicative of importance that a statute or procedural rule entails in relation to other laws.

Third, court opinions reflect how statutes, rules, and doctrines are interpreted. Oftentimes the way how legislation is worded leads "laypeople" to have misconceptions on the interpretation of laws and rules, when in reality these are construed usually in a much narrower way.

Law journals are a good source once you have gained some background in law and are interested in a sort of monograph about a topic that is new to you. But, as explained above, court opinions also serve that purpose (perhaps less scholarly).

Having a legal dictionary is always a good idea. Courts in the US oftentimes quote definitions from Black's Law Dictionary for crucial terms which statutory law does not define.

What is most applicable to real life?

Without knowing whether you are interested in a particular field, it is safe to say that contract law is the most applicable.

Entering contracts is part of our everyday life even if laypeople don't notice it when they purchase goods & services, reach an agreement, or engage in a course of conduct which reasonably fosters expectations. And good news is that the principles of contract law are largely similar among modern jurisdictions, including the America (the continent, not just the USA), many member states of the EU, and Asian countries.

The Restatement (Second) of Contracts is a very useful formulation of contract law. Courts in the US very often cite the Restatement for premising their decisions on contract disputes. In countries with a civil law system, the principles of contract law are usually formulated in one or multiple sections of the [countries'] Civil Code.

Procedural law (aka rules of criminal or civil procedure) is also highly applicable: Large portions thereof apply to all disputes which are brought to court. To a great extent these rules are very similar across the jurisdictions of one same country, but the litigant ought too ensure his compliance with the rules lest he loses the case for a technicality. Lastly, procedural law can be remarkably boring unless the person anticipates he will be involved in litigation.

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