What Is Law?

Law is the system of rules that a particular country or community recognizes as regulating the actions of its members. It is also the field of study and practice devoted to these rules, a profession known as jurisprudence. The observance of law is necessary for society to function well; imagine what would happen if citizens decided to ignore traffic laws, for example.

The law serves many purposes, but the four most important are establishing standards, maintaining order, resolving disputes, and protecting liberties and rights. Tort law, for instance, compensates people who have suffered a wrong—whether physical injury or damage to property, emotional distress, or defamation of character—and partially overlaps with offenses against the state (like criminal laws), which punish offenders.

Different nations have different legal systems, ranging from common law to civil law, but all share some of the same foundational principles. Civil law is based on the idea that a legal code sets forth the rights and duties of citizens, while common law is based on precedent—case law and decisions made by judges over time.

Moreover, different legal traditions have influenced the development of the law. For example, the medieval English legal tradition, exemplified by the Magna Carta and its successors, institutionalized common law. In a sense, the Magna Carta codified common law by establishing a permanent court system with judicial review of appeals, ending local control and peculiarities, eliminating arbitrary remedies, and reinstating a jury system—citizens sworn on oath to investigate reliable criminal accusations and civil claims.

Other countries have largely followed a European model, adopting either common law or civil law. For instance, the United States has a federal system that uses judicial precedent and places it on equal footing with statutes, but also allows for a large number of specific laws to be passed by Congress and signed into law by the President.

Regardless of the type of law, the study and practice of it have become very technical. A lawyer is trained to analyze, interpret, and apply the law, which requires extensive education in a variety of subjects. In addition, the practice of law is heavily regulated by government agencies and independent disciplinary bodies in order to maintain professionalism. This makes law an interesting and fascinating subject to learn about. In fact, it is so fascinating that it can even inspire a career. People who wish to study law can pursue an undergraduate degree in the discipline or obtain a Juris Doctorate. There are also several professional organizations for lawyers, which can provide networking and continuing education opportunities. This can be particularly useful for students in the early stages of their careers as they develop their practice. Moreover, it can be beneficial for employers to seek out employees with law degrees. The most important qualification for becoming a lawyer, however, is a strong desire to help others. This is why a lot of people enter the legal profession. As a result, the legal industry is thriving.

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