The Basics of Law
The term “law” describes a set of rules created by society to deal with areas like crime, business, social relationships, property, finance and so on. These laws are enforced by a controlling authority through penalties. The study of law is called jurisprudence, and people who practice it are lawyers.
The main functions of law are to keep the peace, maintain the status quo, protect minorities from majorities and promote social justice. Nations that have stable and centralized governments are more likely to succeed in these goals than those that do not. It is also important to have checks on the power of a government, such as free and independent media and an independent judiciary. A nation that fails to meet all of the above goals can be described as being unjust or oppressive.
A country’s laws vary widely from one to another. Some use a common law system, in which judges interpret the statutes that establish the rights and obligations of citizens. Others have civil law systems, in which a judge must follow a specific set of rules when determining what the right course of action is. The judicial branch of a country’s government is usually separated from the legislative and executive branches to prevent corruption.
In the United States, lawmakers create new laws by passing bills through both houses of Congress. Typically, a representative will sponsor a bill, which is then assigned to a committee for study. If the committee releases the bill for debate and voting, a simple majority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate passes it. Once the bill is passed, a conference committee made of representatives from the House and Senate works out any differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill.
Many laws are based on religion, and some are simply derived from human experience. For example, the Code of Hammurabi established rules for behavior in Babylonia in 1760 BC. Other laws are based on science or logic. For example, the law of conservation of energy states that a given amount of energy will be conserved when it is transferred from one form to another. The legal profession involves studying and interpreting these laws, as well as developing arguments for or against them. Some students of law choose to specialize in a particular area of the law, such as constitutional or intellectual property. These specialties allow them to focus their study on those areas of the law that they find most interesting or relevant to their career paths. Many colleges and universities offer law programs that provide students with a variety of learning opportunities, including lectures, seminars, group work, class debates and simulated courtroom sessions known as mooting. Some schools also offer opportunities for students to work pro bono (voluntarily) with real-life clients, which can help them gain valuable job experience. Law programs often also require students to study a foreign language. This can give them a competitive edge in the job market, especially in the U.S.