Throughout history, the term “law” has been defined in many ways. In a broader sense, it can refer to a system of rules and regulations that are enforceable by social institutions. Law also has a range of synonyms including rule, canon, statute, ordinance and precept.
Legal theory generally focuses on the attributes of law and its ability to impose normative goals. For example, the concept of “natural law” emerged in ancient Greek philosophy as a way of defining a principle governing action and procedure. It then made its way into mainstream culture in the writings of Thomas Aquinas.
The idea of “law” can also be viewed as a set of rules that are enforced by governmental institutions. It can also be viewed as a set that serves to preserve individual rights, protect minorities from majorities and maintain peace within a nation.
A variety of legal systems serve these purposes more effectively than others. Those systems include civil law and religious law. Regardless of the particular system, the concept of “law” is a central feature of the modern legal system.
There are a number of important differences between these systems. For example, civil law legal systems are usually shorter and more focused on judicial decisions. Religion-based legal systems, such as Islamic Sharia, are explicitly based on religious precepts.
Modern lawyers must acquire a degree in law, usually a Bachelor of Laws, or a Master of Legal Studies. Modern lawyers also typically need to pass a qualifying examination to be licensed to practice law.