Law is a system of rules that are created and enforced by social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior. Its precise definition is a matter of longstanding debate and has been described as science and as art. It is generally recognized that law shapes politics, economics, history and society in a variety of ways.
One theory of the role of law is that it protects the social values to which everyone in a given society subscribes and thus prevents conflicts between individuals. Another view is that law provides a formal means for resolving those conflicts that are unavoidable in a world of humans with different needs, wants, views and values.
The most basic function of law is to provide a set of guidelines that are applied to everyone in the same way and serve as the basis for all decisions. This function can be applied to anything from traffic regulations and contracts to employment and property laws.
It is also a tool to help achieve political stability and maintain the status quo. Some governments use law to oppress minorities or their political opponents, while others apply it more liberally to promote social change and justice.
In many societies, law is codified and consolidated by a central authority. It is a fundamental element of modern life and shapes politics, business, education and culture in various ways. Law is a complex area of study and there are many subfields of law such as criminal, tort, family and constitutional.
A major determinant of the nature and function of law is the particular legal system in place. A common distinction is between “common law” systems, where the doctrine of stare decisis (Latin for “to stand by prior decisions”) binds all courts in future cases, and “civil law” systems where statutes are more detailed and courts have more leeway to tailor laws to individual circumstances through interpretation and creative jurisprudence.
The study of law is a rich and rewarding field for those with the right mindset. There are many resources available to help students understand the complexity of the subject, and there is no substitute for reading and studying the law in order to gain a thorough understanding of its applications.
A key to success in this field is finding an aspect of the law that is interesting and relevant to your personal interests. Whether it is a human interest story, political angle or something else entirely, find that aspect and you are on the road to mastering a fascinating subject. Trying to learn everything at once will quickly become overwhelming and will likely lead to frustration and failure. If you cannot find an aspect of the law that appeals to you, the best advice is to find a legal career that is not focused on this area.