What Is Law?


Law is an area of study and a profession concerned with the creation, enforcement and adherence to a system of rules governing the behaviour of people in society. A law can be an ordinance, a statute, a constitutional provision or a judicial decision. The law can be based on human customs, religious beliefs, ethical principles or the will of a deity. Laws can be created by a central authority or by a group of individuals, such as a legislative assembly or an executive board. The term law can also refer to a body of rules governing a particular aspect of the legal system, for example air law, family law, employment law, maritime law or medical jurisprudence.

The law has the power to restrict freedoms and rights, enforce duties, punish transgressors, and provide remedies for wrongs. However, the law must be enacted fairly and with due process to be valid. If it is not, the law will become a weapon of oppression and can be used to suppress the free expression of ideas and freedoms. This is why the rule that a judge must be impartial in ruling on cases is so important.

In addition to its role in regulating behaviour, law plays an important part in shaping politics, economics, history and society. The law varies from country to country, with civil law jurisdictions codifying laws, and common law systems relying on precedent (judge-made rules) and creative jurisprudence. Laws can also be based on human customs and religion, such as Sharia law in Islam.

A lawyer is a person who practices the law or advocates on behalf of others in legal proceedings and has been trained to conduct trials and to prepare legal documents. A lawyer can represent either the plaintiff or the defendant in a case. A legal assistant is an individual who works with a lawyer to assist in handling a case.

To be a successful lawyer, one needs to have a sharp mind. Unlike most other subjects at university, where students spend their time studying statutes and cases back to front and having the odd quiet night in, law requires an ability to understand how different areas of the law interlock, to look at the bigger picture and think outside the box. This is shown most clearly in problem questions where students are asked to apply legislation and legal reasoning to very specific, often outlandish factual patterns.

There are a lot of things to consider before applying for law school, including researching schools, attending open days and visiting as many campuses as possible. The best way to do this is to use varied sources, including ABA reports and statistics, student reviews and forums, guidebooks, your pre-law advisor at your undergraduate institution and talking to current law students. It is also worth registering on law student websites and getting involved in societies. This is a great way to meet potential classmates and make connections. A well-rounded law student can then stand out amongst the competition and is more likely to get into the school of their choice.