Law is a set of rules made and enforced by social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior. It has been characterized as both a science and an art, and its precise nature is a subject of long-standing debate. Laws, and the judicial system that upholds them, are the source of much scholarly inquiry into topics such as legal history, philosophy, economic analysis and sociology. Law is also the basis for much of our daily activity, from traffic regulations to employment laws to the terms and conditions on a website.
Because law is a human creation, it is subject to the same errors of bias and interpretation as any other discipline. As a result, it is not possible to have empirical proof that any particular law is right or wrong. Whether or not this is a problem for the study of law, it does mean that the philosophies and theories of the field are not objectively verifiable.
The study of Law encompasses a wide range of subjects, from contract law to family law. It includes criminal and civil procedure, evidence law (which determines which materials are admissible in court) and constitutional law. In addition, it covers topics such as immigration law, nationality law and social security law.
A large number of laws exist, at the local, state and federal level. Most states have their own constitutions and statutes, while the federal government has a broader range of powers, including interstate commerce, foreign affairs, tariffs and intellectual property (like patents and copyrights). State laws often include the right to freedom of speech, religion, assembly and petition, while federal law is limited by the Constitutional limits on spending power and the authority to enact laws on interstate or international matters.
These laws are shaped by the culture and customs of society and the social relationships between people. The study of Law thus combines the perspectives of political philosophy, sociology and ethics. Max Weber and others reshaped thinking about the extension of state power, while modern military, policing and bureaucratic power over everyday life present special problems for accountability that Locke and Montesquieu could not have foreseen.
A legal education can help develop skills needed to work as a lawyer, judge or other judicial officer. It can also help students learn about the role of law in a democratic society, as well as the ways in which laws can be changed. In addition, studying Law can provide a solid foundation for other studies in areas like anthropology, history, economics and politics. It can also be a good choice for anyone interested in a career in the public sector or government. A career in the legal profession is a highly rewarding and exciting one for those who want to make a difference in society.