What Is the Field of Law?

The law shapes politics, economics, history and society in many ways. It has four principal purposes: establishing standards, maintaining order, resolving disputes and protecting liberties and rights. It also inspires scholarly inquiry into legal history, philosophy and sociology.

Jurisprudence is the study of the law and legal procedure. Judges and lawyers are experts in jurisprudence. They have a wide range of duties including judging cases, researching and writing opinions, and meeting informational needs of the court. A clerk of court is an officer who works closely with the chief judge and specializes in managing caseflow and keeping records. A deputy clerk may focus on a specific area of law or work with a particular judge. The law library at the courthouse serves the informational needs of judges and lawyers.

Criminal law deals with conduct that violates the public interest and may result in imprisonment. It is distinguished from civil law, which addresses disputes between individuals or groups. A prosecutor is a person who charges people with crimes. A defender is someone who represents people who cannot afford attorneys in criminal cases.

A transcript is a written word-for-word record of testimony given at a trial or hearing. It is usually accompanied by a video or audio recording of the event. A restraining order is a legal document that prohibits a person from doing something that could cause irreparable harm or injury. The restraining order is usually temporary and lasts until the court can hold a hearing to decide whether it should be revoked.

The field of law has many specialties such as family law, environmental law, labor law, tax law and banking law. International law is a growing area that includes issues such as international trade, war, terrorism and space. Regulatory law establishes standards for private companies that provide services such as electricity, gas and water. It may include provisions such as minimum service levels, safety rules and financial regulations. The practice of law is overseen by a government or independent regulating body such as a bar association, bar council or law society. Lawyers gain a distinct professional identity by passing a qualifying examination and following a prescribed process of training and education (which may lead to a bachelor of laws degree or a master of law). In some jurisdictions, they must have a bar or other membership in order to be admitted to the practice of law. The practice of law is subject to ethical standards that promote integrity, honesty and fairness in the representation of clients.