Law is a set of rules created by the state that form a framework to ensure a peaceful society. The laws are enforced by the state and if broken sanctions can be imposed. The study of the law is a popular choice for students and young people seeking a career.
Many books have been written about what is meant by the law, with different theories being presented. Hans Kelsen proposed the ‘pure theory of law’ which states that law does not seek to describe what must occur, but simply defines certain rules to abide by. The theory also states that the laws of nature and human society precede the laws that are made.
Some countries, such as the United States, use a common law system which is based on court decisions rather than statutes passed by legislature. Other countries, such as Japan, have a civil law system which is based on predetermined codes that judges must follow in making their decisions.
There are many other branches of law such as criminal law which governs the punishment of crimes, administrative law which relates to government functions, property law which deals with ownership and rights to possessions and contracts which govern all agreements between two or more parties. The modern company law grew out of the ancient law of trusts while other areas such as commercial law, tort law, libel and copyright have their roots in medieval law.
Lawyers are the people who advise clients about the law and represent them in legal proceedings. There are many areas of law that lawyers can specialise in, including family law, employment law, business litigation and civil rights cases. Some of these areas are very controversial and require a lot of research, but others are more straightforward and may only involve a few short meetings with the client.
The legal profession is highly respected in most societies and the jobs available are well paid. Lawyers are known by a variety of names including barristers (often referred to as’solicitors’ in Australia), solicitors, advocates and district attorneys. There are also some titles of respect such as Esquire which signifies a barrister of greater dignity and Doctor of law which indicates someone who has obtained a PhD in law.
The creation of laws shapes politics, economics, history and society in a variety of ways and serves as a mediator between relations between people. In most of the world, it is those who hold military and political power who make the laws, although every year there are revolts against existing power structures in an aspiration for democratic rule and a guarantee of ‘rights’ for citizens. The law is a reflection of the social and cultural realities in each nation-state. Inevitably, it is also a reflection of the power balance between the dominant groups in the nation-state.