Law is the study of the rules that govern society and its relationships. This includes the rules that protect people and their property (civil law) as well as those that punish offenders and ensure justice (criminal law). Law also encompasses legal systems and the professions that practice within them – including lawyers, judges, and police officers.
Law reflects both human values and natural processes. It cannot mandate behaviours that are beyond a person’s capability, and it must be applied equally to all persons. The rule of law requires governments and private actors to be accountable to laws that are publicly promulgated, equally enforced, and independently adjudicated. This enables citizens to participate in democratic and other types of governance, protects property rights, provides access to legal aid, guarantees equality, and promotes public confidence in the institutions of governance and the judiciary.
Even in the best-ordered societies, disputes arise, and the law is a tool to resolve them peacefully. In some instances, a court may decide whether someone is rightful owner of a piece of land or that an employee was unfairly fired.
There are many areas of legal study, from the role of restorative justice in criminal case resolution to global environmental regulations and the legal protections for intellectual property. Each of these topics is rich in subject matter for scholarly inquiry, and provides students with the opportunity to develop their critical thinking and analytical skills by exploring an issue that is important to them.