Law is a set of rules that are created and enforced by social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior. Its precise definition is a matter of longstanding debate, and it has been described as both a science and an art.
The law governs a variety of subjects, including contracts, property, and criminal justice. People of all ages, backgrounds, and social classes interact with the law on a daily basis in ways that reflect the wide range of its applications.
For example, contract law regulates the exchange of goods and services; property law defines people’s rights and duties toward tangible property, from homes to cars to bank accounts; and criminal law sets out punishments for offenses against a federal, state, or local government and its citizens.
A central question in the study of law is whether a nation’s laws are fair and unbiased. This requires a basic understanding of the political landscape and its history; it also involves examining the structures of government, and it requires assessing the extent to which people are subject to laws that reflect power relationships rather than their individual merits.
In many nations, a minority of the population holds the political power that can make and enforce laws. This gives rise to the concept of “rule by the majority” – which, in practice, means that the law favors those who are wealthier or have more education and political influence. Attempts to create fair and impartial laws are the subject of many national movements, and they usually involve a desire for greater “rights” for citizens.
The legal system is comprised of numerous branches and sub-branches. Each branch has its own set of specialized terms and practices. For instance, the term “jury pool” refers to a group of people from which actual jurors in a case are chosen by lawyers in a process known as voir dire. A “law clerk” is a person who assists judges with research and writing of opinions. Similarly, a “law librarian” meets the information needs of lawyers and judges.
The goal of legal studies is to prepare a student for a career in the legal profession. Law is a highly demanding and rewarding profession, and it offers a variety of opportunities for those who are interested in pursuing its many challenges. Those who have obtained law degrees may work in any of the many branches of the legal system, from government agencies to private firms, or they may practice in courts as attorneys or judges. They may specialize in a particular area of law, such as torts or employment law, or they may focus on the development and maintenance of legal codes. They may also be involved in educating the public about the law and its application in everyday life. Law is an important component of any modern society. As the world becomes more interconnected, it is imperative that the legal systems of different countries be able to communicate and collaborate effectively.