Law is the system of rules created and enforced by social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior. The precise definition of law is a matter of longstanding debate, but some key aspects are: establishing standards, maintaining order, resolving disputes, and protecting liberties and rights.
Legal systems differ widely across the world, but there are common themes in law, government and society that are generally accepted as normative. This includes the concept of rights as a foundation of the rule of law, which relates to the basic human dignity and security of individuals, as well as the notion of a just society that balances the interests of different groups in a society.
A law degree can open doors to a variety of careers in fields that deal with advising people about the laws, defending people in court or giving decisions and sanctions. There is also a growing interest in studying the law as an academic subject, with the field of Law Studies often associated with legal philosophy.
Many different views of law have been expressed, and a wide range of literature has been produced on the topic. The main idea of law is that it is a set of rules created by the state which form a framework to ensure a peaceful society, and that if these rules are broken, sanctions can be imposed.
The specifics of the rules vary widely, depending on what country is being considered, but some common terms include:
Brief – A written document submitted by lawyers for each side in a case to explain why the judge should decide in their client’s favor. Usually, the judges read these briefs before making their decisions.
Evidence – The proof that supports a particular claim or view. In a criminal trial, evidence may include eyewitness testimony, confessions, physical or chemical testing results, expert testimony, and other sources of information.
Prosecutor – A person who charges someone with a crime and tries the case on behalf of the government. The prosecutor must present a sufficient amount of evidence to meet the burden of proof for a criminal conviction.
Jury – The group of people who hear and determine the facts of a case and then decide whether or not a person is guilty of a crime. Typically, the jury is made up of 12 people.
The rules of law govern a wide range of activities, including contract law (regulating agreements to exchange goods and services), administrative law (governing public agencies such as the courts and the military), civil rights, and property law (defining people’s rights and duties toward tangible property, such as land or buildings). Some legal scholars have focused on the ways in which the extension of state power poses special problems for accountability, and this idea is sometimes called Max Weber’s theory of the state.