Law is the study of systems of rules that govern the behaviour of individuals and societies. It is also the process by which these systems are established and enforceable, with their precise definition a matter of longstanding debate.
The legal system of a country can be defined by its constitution and laws, which define rights and responsibilities. It can also include the procedures by which government functions and powers are exercised and the methods by which disputes between citizens and governments can be resolved.
Different legal systems serve different purposes, and some have greater effectiveness in certain areas than others. A nation’s legal system can keep the peace and preserve the status quo, protect minorities against majorities, promote social justice, provide orderly social change, and safeguard individual rights.
Depending on the legal system, the government may make its own laws or delegate them to private entities such as courts and regulatory agencies. Some nations have more complex legal systems than others, with more detailed and elaborate statutes or codes of law.
A court may decide whether a law is valid or not and what penalties should be applied if it is broken. For example, if murder is against the law, then it is illegal to kill another person.
In the United States, there are two major types of laws: federal and state. A federal law is a law passed by Congress and signed by the President. A state law is a law made by the legislature of a particular state.
Civil law jurisdictions (such as the United States) codify and consolidate their laws, while common law jurisdictions use judge-made precedent to establish binding law. The doctrine of stare decisis means that decisions of higher courts are generally acknowledged as “law” on equal footing with statutes adopted through the legislative process and regulations issued by the executive branch.
Criminal law is a special area of the legal system that deals with conduct that is considered harmful to social order and can lead to imprisonment or a fine. It includes cases such as assault, treason, and fraud, and is the subject of much research by lawyers.
Lawyers are professionals who represent people in court and give decisions and punishments. They are required by law to have a professional identity and distinct qualifications.
A career in law is a rewarding and often lucrative one, and many people pursue it for this reason. However, it is important to note that this profession requires substantial skill and a high level of education.
There are many fields in which people can practice law, including intellectual property, labour and employment, family, maritime, medical, commercial and tax. Most modern lawyers obtain a degree in the relevant field, and achieve professional distinction by passing a qualifying examination or by being admitted to a bar association.