The Discipline of Law

Law is a body of rules, norms and principles for human behavior. It consists of both formal legal codes and judicial decisions. It is a complex area of study and practice because of its many dimensions.

It reflects the values of society and the goals and priorities of the people that create it. It is also a field of study because of the many ways in which it intersects with other areas of knowledge and activity, such as science (like the laws of gravity) and social sciences like economics or history.

There are three distinct ways in which law can be viewed: a) as a set of natural processes that always produce certain results, b) as a system of social control and coercion imposed by an authority, c) as a process in which people, for their own reasons, choose to accept and adhere to its precepts. The first and third forms of law are largely based on scientific or sociological theories; the second form is more complex because of the way it reflects the beliefs and values of human beings.

The discipline of Law is a part of the academic study of societies, human rights and the nature of the state and is often connected to philosophy, politics and ethics. It is a highly complex system, not least because of its lack of empirical verification. For example, it is impossible to verify whether a specific law is morally right or wrong.

Most countries in the world use a civil law system. Its origins date back millennia and it is based on the practices of the 6th century Roman Empire which were rediscovered in medieval Europe. Its main features are the supremacy of the law, equality before the law and legal certainty. The rule of law requires measures to ensure that a constitution or statute is publicly promulgated and equally enforced, that citizens are accountable to the law and are treated fairly by its courts, that all institutions and bodies of government, including the state itself, are subject to the law, that citizens participate in the making of law and are protected from arbitrariness.

A legal system based on the principle of stare decisis, where the law is determined by decisions made by higher courts and those rulings are regarded as binding on lower courts. It is a system that allows judicious interpretation and creative jurisprudence to adapt rules to changing social needs, unlike the more rigid code-based systems.

Law is a specialized field of study and there are a variety of careers that can be pursued in the industry, such as being an attorney, solicitor or barrister. Students who wish to become lawyers need to go through a rigorous legal training programme and are required to pass a professional examination in their country of study. The profession is regulated and overseen by a bar association or bar council. In many countries, the title of Esquire is used to signify a lawyer of high status.