The Study of Law

The Study of Law

Law is a collection of rules and standards that form the framework for society. It is a set of principles for establishing order, resolving disputes and protecting liberty and rights. Laws are enacted by governments and enforced by institutions created by government. Laws are based on a variety of sources, including experience, culture, ethics, moral philosophy, and religion. There are several types of laws, including constitutional law; criminal law; family law; and property law. There is also contract law, tort law and intellectual property law.

Laws are shaped by the context of a nation’s development over many centuries. Consequently, it is impossible to deal with law as if it were a set of logical propositions, derived from a fixed system of reasoning. The felt necessities of a time, popular moral and political theories, intuitions of public policy (whether they be avowed or unconscious), and the prejudices of judges all play an important role in determining what is lawful and what is unlawful.

Regardless of the origin, the law’s purpose is to serve its citizens, which requires the creation and enforcement of a set of standards that will provide a sense of security, predictability and equity. It is these goals that distinguish the legal landscape from one nation to another, despite the differences in political systems.

In countries with strong respect for precedent, a fine question of the law is generally determined once and for all by the courts. This enables consistent and predictable results, thereby making the law more useful to parties. In contrast, in jurisdictions with weak allegiance to a body of precedent, fine questions of the law must be determined anew each time they arise, which makes consistency and prediction more difficult and often results in longer and more costly procedures.

A country’s laws are influenced by a multitude of factors, including the traditions and customs of its people, the nature of its natural resources, the economic situation and the degree to which its leaders are committed to good governance and the preservation of human rights. These influences are reflected in the structure of its government and its judiciary, the level of corruption, the degree to which the political and judicial systems are transparent, the legal training of its lawyers, and a number of other issues.

The study of law is a multi-disciplinary field, embracing history; sociology; politics; economics; and anthropology. In addition, it encompasses the various professions that specialize in advising people about the law, representing them in court, giving decisions and administering punishments. These include the legal profession; jurisprudence; and public service. For further details on the relationships between law and other fields, see constitution; ideology; political party; and political system. For an examination of law as a social phenomenon, see legal philosophy; and social justice.