Law is a system of rules created and enforced by social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior. It is the framework that ensures peaceful society and enables people to be held accountable if they violate its terms. Law can be enacted by legislatures through statutes, decreed by executive agencies or established by judges through precedent (in common law jurisdictions). The precise definition of law is a matter of ongoing debate. It has been characterized as both an art and a science.
The study of law is important because it provides insights into the nature of government, human relationships and the possibilities for a just society. It is also a highly practical field with an increasingly attractive career path for young people, due to the increasing complexity of the world in which we live and the importance placed on fairness and equality.
While the study of law is a complex endeavor, it is also an exciting one, with many fascinating historical examples and developments to draw upon. The legal process itself, involving the presentation and evaluation of evidence in the courts, is an exercise in problem solving that has been refined through centuries of experience. It has evolved to include both ancient elements, such as the coroners’ court that has a 800-year history, and very modern ones, such as electronic legal research and laptop computers in the courts.
From a methodological perspective, the most striking feature of law is that it has a normative character: it tells us what we ought to do or not do. This is quite distinct from the descriptive character of empirical sciences, such as the laws of gravity or even of social science, which are merely telling us about what happens. This makes the study of law a truly multidisciplinary endeavor that intersects with philosophy, ethics and sociology.
The practice of law has evolved to involve the training and qualification of specialist legal practitioners, usually through a formal university education that results in a degree such as a Bachelor of Laws or a Bachelor of Civil Law. In addition, they have undergone a series of professional exams and are regulated by an independent disciplinary body such as a bar association or law society.
A key part of the practice of law is providing advice to clients and representing them in a court of justice or other tribunal. This requires good interpersonal skills and an ability to explain complex legal matters in a clear and understandable manner. Lawyers must also be able to make a persuasive case for their client and be prepared to challenge evidence when appropriate. Finally, they must be able to work within the constraints of an adversarial legal system that is designed to root out corruption and bias in its decisions. Moreover, they must be able to work with clients of all backgrounds and cultures, and be sensitive to their differing views on what is just or unfair. A thorough understanding of the complexities of law is therefore essential for all lawyers.