A Career in Law
Law is a body of rules that regulates the conduct of a community and is enforced by a controlling authority through penalties. A nation’s legal system may differ widely, depending on its historical development, culture and political structure. Many countries employ a common law system in which laws are derived from case decisions made by judges, and are not explicitly written as statutes. Other nations use a civil law system in which a written code establishes the legal rights of citizens.
Some theories of law explain its functions in terms of utilitarian or rationalist ideas. Bentham’s theory, for example, explains that a state’s law is “commands, backed by the threat of sanctions, from a sovereign to whom people have a habit of obedience.” Those who advocate natural law, on the other hand, believe that a country’s laws should be based on moral principles and are unchanging.
Legal studies encompass a wide range of topics, and a career in law can be very rewarding. The law is studied at all levels of education, from primary school through to post-graduate study. Legal studies also encompass the professions of advising people about the law, representing them in court or defending their rights and punishing those who break the law.
The main purposes of the law are to keep the peace, maintain the status quo, preserve individual rights and protect minorities against majorities. It is also intended to encourage social change in an orderly manner. Some nations are more able to fulfil these aims than others. For example, an authoritarian government is able to keep the peace and maintain the status quo, but it may oppress minorities or its own political opponents.
Different types of law cover a wide variety of areas, such as employment, property, medical, criminal and civil. For example, employment law deals with the relationships between employees and employers and covers issues such as health and safety, the minimum wage and contract negotiations. Property law encompasses the ownership of land and buildings (called real property) and objects (called personal property). Medical law includes regulations on confidentiality between patients and doctors, and malpractice claims. Criminal law is concerned with the penalties for breaking the rules of a society, such as murder or theft. The law is also involved in the regulation of industries such as banking, utilities and energy. It is also concerned with the protection of intellectual property and copyrights.