Law is a set of rules that are enforced through social or governmental institutions to ensure that members of a community adhere to certain standards of behavior. Some laws are more strict than others, but all aim to achieve similar goals such as preserving individual rights, maintaining the status quo, or promoting social justice. The creation and enforcement of law can vary widely between different cultures. For example, the laws of a country with a strong authoritarian government may keep the peace and maintain the status quo, but this system can also oppress minorities or opposing political factions, leading to civil unrest and possible rebellion against the state. Laws created by a democracy, on the other hand, may be more focused on protecting individual rights and ensuring that social change occurs in a democratic fashion.
The concept of law has a number of important features that distinguish it from other concepts in the human sciences, such as empirical science (like the law of gravity) or social science (such as the theory of cause and effect). First, the law is normative. It contains precepts that judges and governments think people ought to do or not do, rather than descriptions of actual behaviors (like the speed of sound). Moreover, the content of the law is dependent on humans and their mental operations, as there is no way to empirically verify the contents of the law (except for a criminal trial, which may be used to prove guilt or innocence in a case against someone accused of committing a crime).
In addition to being normative, the law is also descriptive and forward looking. It makes predictions about the behavior of bad people and explains why they behave as they do. This understanding of the law has made it a useful betting system for investors, who can place bets on whether a particular outcome is likely to occur or not.
As a result of these characteristics, law can be difficult to explain in objective terms. For example, the judicial community might insist that a judge should not bias against a poor defendant and should treat all defendants equally, but the reality of the legal world is far from this ideal.
The law is an important source of scholarly inquiry in areas such as legal history, philosophy, economic analysis and sociology. Some of the most complex and interesting topics include the foundations of law in ancient societies, the development of Roman law and medieval English law, and the modern legal systems of the United States and other nations around the world. The study of law is known as jurisprudence, and a career in the field can be highly rewarding. It is also a popular choice for college students pursuing degrees in the natural and social sciences, business, finance, economics, and political science. Those interested in becoming lawyers can obtain the necessary qualifications through a variety of undergraduate and graduate programs. These programs can prepare them to take the bar exam, which is required for a career as a lawyer.