Law is the set of rules that governs a community and is enforced through penalties. Law is the foundation of human civilization, and it shapes politics, economics, history and society in many ways. Law also focuses on the relationships between people, and it can be used to punish or reward behavior. While different cultures have various views on what law is, most agree that the purpose of laws is to create a peaceful society by deterring bad behaviors and rewarding good ones.
The study of law requires knowledge of a number of subject areas, including history, philosophy, sociology, religion and political science. However, the study of law is distinct from other disciplines in a number of ways. First, it is a discipline that deals with normative statements, meaning it tells us what we ought to do or not do, as opposed to descriptive statements such as those found in empirical science (such as the law of gravity) and social science (such as the law of supply and demand). It is important for understanding the nature and role of law to appreciate that normative statements are inherently subjective.
Because of this, the study of law requires a high degree of skepticism and critical thinking. A great deal of discussion takes place about what it means to have a legitimate law, such as the question of whether the law should or should not comprise precepts that are “good” or “bad.” Another key issue is the extent to which a person is subject to the law and can expect to be treated fairly.
Many countries have a legal system based on either statutes or case law. The United States, for example, uses a common law system, in which judges make their decisions based on the precedent of other cases they have heard. These cases are then compiled into what is called case law. Some case law is binding, while others are not.
Other areas of the law include tort law, which covers injuries to persons or property, and criminal law, which deals with offenses against the state. There are also fields of civil procedure, evidence and bankruptcy law. In addition, there are special laws dealing with capital crimes and military service.
Those studying the law may choose to specialize in one of these areas or to focus on an aspect of the law that interests them. In the practice of law, specialization allows individuals to gain employment as lawyers in courts and other legal institutions. Some individuals also pursue careers in the teaching or research of law.
Regardless of the area of law, there are certain skills that all practicing attorneys should have. For example, an attorney should be able to clearly communicate complex ideas in writing and to explain them to clients. He or she should also have excellent interpersonal skills, and he or she should be able to remain neutral and impartial in court proceedings. In addition, an attorney should be able to work well with other members of the legal team and to keep current on changes in the law.