Law is the set of rules created and enforced by social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior. Its precise definition is a matter of longstanding debate and it has been described as both a science and an art. Law shapes politics, economics, history and society in many ways, and serves as the mediator of relations between people.
In modern societies, laws determine how citizens interact with one another, define their rights and obligations, establish property boundaries, and punish crimes. There are two main types of law: civil law and criminal law. Civil law deals with disputes between individuals such as torts (damages caused by car accidents, defamation and other forms of intellectual property theft). Crimes against the state or local community are governed by criminal law.
Governments make laws to ensure a safe and peaceful society. The law protects individual rights, ensures that everybody receives the same services from the government and that public officials carry out their duties according to the law. It also prevents the rise of dictatorships by ensuring that the political and military leaders do not have complete control over the country.
Lawyers advise people on legal issues and represent them in court. The legal profession is a career option that is increasingly attractive to young people, and there are many different areas in which a lawyer can specialize.
The practice of law is regulated by the government or an independent governing body such as a bar association, law society or bar council. A lawyer must have a specific qualification, which may include successful completion of a rigorous legal examination and a law degree. The highest academic degree that can be obtained in the field of law is a Doctor of Law, but there are several other degrees available.
A lawyer must also be knowledgeable about current events, and be able to communicate complex ideas clearly in court. There are a number of terms that are important to know, including:
Jurisdiction – The legal authority that gives a court the power to decide a case. A court can have concurrent jurisdiction if it shares responsibility for a case with another court. For example, a federal court and a state court could have simultaneous jurisdiction over the same case.
Appellate Court – A higher court that has the power to review and overturn decisions made by lower courts. A judge on an appellate court must follow precedent, unless there is a compelling reason or significantly different facts or issues.
Brief – A written statement submitted by a lawyer for each side of the case, explaining to the judges why they should rule in favor of their client. The briefs are read in court during the arraignment or other preliminary proceedings.
A judge’s decision determining the rights and claims of the parties to a lawsuit. The judgment may also award damages or impose a sentence for the defendant. Sometimes, the plaintiff and defendant reach a settlement before going to trial.