A Career in Law

Law is a set of rules that a society creates to govern itself and its citizens. These rules are enforced by police and other mechanisms and can be used to punish people who break them. The laws are created by a legislature (parliment or congress) which is elected by the citizens of a country. Many societies also have religious laws which are based on precepts or scripture such as the Jewish Halakha and the Islamic Sharia, or the Christian canon which survives in some church communities. These can be used as a basis for further laws made by humans through interpretation, Qiyas (reasoning by analogy), Ijma (consensus) and precedent.

The study of law is an academic discipline and a profession that deals with advising clients about the law, representing them in court and providing decisions and punishments for breaking the law. A career in law is very attractive to many young people.

There are several different theories about the nature of law. Hans Kelsen proposed the ‘pure theory of law’, which states that the law does not seek to describe what must occur, but defines certain rules that individuals have to abide by. Other theorists have suggested that the law is a social construct, which evolves in response to changing circumstances. This is sometimes referred to as ‘natural law’.

In the modern world, most countries have a written constitution and a body of laws called statutes, which are created by a legislative parliament or congress. These are interpreted and amended by a judiciary, which is made up of judges or magistrates elected by the people. Judges can decide whether to uphold a law or not, and can modify the wording of a statute by bracketing or striking out existing language, or inserting new text.

Statutes can be a very complicated document, but they generally follow a standard structure. This includes the definition of terms, applicability, authority and administrative provisions, substantive body of the law (imposition of rights or duties), enforcement provisions, sunset or effective dates and miscellaneous provisions.

The creation of law is a political process, and the main functions of law are to keep the peace, maintain the status quo, protect minorities against majorities, promote social justice, allow for orderly social change and provide an accountability mechanism for those who exercise power over the people. However, some legal systems are more efficient and effective than others. For example, a military-based government may be able to more quickly keep the peace than a democracy, but it can be more oppressive and violent against its own citizens. It is also possible for a democratic government to lose popular support, which can lead to revolution and the overthrow of the existing law and its political-legal system. A country that has a well-functioning law and constitutional democracy is said to have a stable polity. In contrast, an unstable polity can easily break down and devolve into civil war or a dictatorship. The most stable polities are those that balance military and civilian power through an effective constitutional system, with checks and balances in place to prevent excesses by one side or another.