The Importance of Law

A body of rules and principles governing human behavior, law permeates every aspect of life and society. It governs relationships, governance, commerce and individual rights. It shapes history, culture and civilizations. Its diverse fields and evolving nature underscore its importance to humanity.

Law is often viewed as a tool of social control, with competing pulls of political philosophy and economic interests conflicting for recognition. It is also seen as coercive, in that it imposes restrictions on individuals and societies, even against their will.

At its most basic, law is a sovereign’s authority to issue orders that must be obeyed and apply sanctions for failure to do so. This view of law is most clearly expressed in the tyrannical rule of a dictator such as Hitler or Saddam Hussein, where people are at the mercy of the laws created by those who have the power to enforce them. However, this understanding of law risks reducing laws to nothing more than a form of power backed by threat.

A more sophisticated definition of law incorporates more than just the notion of sovereign commands, but also of a social order in which laws are agreed to by the citizens of a society as a means of meeting their social needs. It is this societal purpose of law that distinguishes it from mere power backed by force.

The practice of law is a vast and varied field, encompassing many different disciplines and professions. It is commonly divided into two broad categories: common law and civil law, although some legal systems combine these divisions. Common law focuses on the idea of precedent, with the decisions of judges binding subsequent courts through the “doctrine of stare decisis”.

In contrast, civil law is an approach to jurisprudence that places greater emphasis on a constitution and the rights encoded therein. It also relies on a specific code of conduct, such as the Jewish Halakha or Islamic Sharia, as well as further human elaboration through interpretation, Qiyas (reasoning by analogy) and Ijma (consensus).

An important skill for law students is developing their ability to read large volumes of material and distill it into something meaningful and accessible. This requires attention to detail, the ability to think critically and to write concisely. A great way to hone these skills is to get involved with extra-curricular activities, such as student newspapers and debating societies. Part-time work in customer service will also help improve these skills, as will volunteering for a community project. This kind of experience will allow you to see the impact of your work, as well as gain invaluable transferable skills.