The Study of Law
Law is the body of rules and principles established in a community by some authority and binding upon its people. A general distinction is made between civil law jurisdictions, in which legislative statutes are considered law, and common law systems, in which judge-made precedent is binding on lower courts, under the doctrine of stare decisis (Latin for “to stand by decisions”). A legal system’s laws govern many aspects of human society, and as such are a major source of study for scholars of political science, philosophy, economics, sociology, and history.
A lawyer is a person who practices law, or the profession of arguing cases in court on behalf of clients before judges and juries. The lawyer’s arguments are usually written in the form of a brief, and include a summary of the case, the evidence presented by both sides, and a conclusion about how the jury should decide. A lawyer’s ability to draft a concise and convincing brief is critical for success in this profession.
The field of law is extremely broad, and includes the practice of criminal, civil, and constitutional law. Criminal law deals with behavior that is deemed harmful to social order, and violations of the law can result in imprisonment or fines. Civil law, on the other hand, resolves lawsuits between individuals or organizations. This discipline also contains sub-fields such as maritime law, tax law, and corporate law.
Other areas of law deal with specialized topics, such as competition law, consumer protection, patent law, and international treaties. Regulatory bodies and government agencies administer and enforce these laws. For example, the Federal Trade Commission is an agency charged with enforcing antitrust laws that protect consumers from unfair business practices.
The study of law has become an important part of modern life, as it reflects the complexities and tensions in human societies. It is also a source of scholarly inquiry into historical, philosophical, and economic analysis, and raises issues of morality and justice.
A significant area of debate is the extent to which a person’s actions can be determined by a law. Some argue that a law must be based on objective factual evidence and that it should be applied fairly to all parties involved. Others contend that a person’s actions should be judged according to his or her own sense of right and wrong, regardless of whether or not that person violated the law.
The rule of law is a fundamental principle that requires public and private actors to be accountable under laws that are clear, publicly promulgated, equally enforced, and independently adjudicated. It requires that the processes by which laws are adopted, administered, and adjudicated be fair and accessible and reflect the diversity of the communities they serve. This definition of the rule of law has been derived from internationally accepted standards and norms.