What is Law?
Law is the body of rules and regulations that control a social system or organisation. It also refers to the condition of being under such control. It has four main functions: establishing standards, maintaining order, resolving disputes and protecting liberties and rights.
The discipline that deals with these laws is jurisprudence. A lawyer is a person qualified to practice law. Law is a complex subject and its precise definition has been the source of debate and discussion. However, most scholars agree that it is a set of rules created by institutions (either by government or society) to govern behaviour. These rules are generally enforceable by state sanction.
Legal studies also look at the history of laws and legal institutions and how they develop over time. The field is interdisciplinary, encompassing philosophy, sociology and history among others. There are two major theories about law: realism and naturalism. The realism school views law as an instrument for adjusting relationships and ordering conduct in a socially organised society. It is a political theory that sees the law as a means of adjusting the power structure between conflicting groups.
Naturalism on the other hand views law as an innate, unchanging and objectively valid system that is a product of natural evolution. It is a moralistic view that sees the law as a means for imposing values on people.
Other theories of law are legal structuralism and critical realism. The former is a social science that seeks to understand the relationship between laws and societies while the latter is a philosophy of law that challenges the validity of laws by exploring their roots in societal structures.
In addition to its traditional areas of study, law has expanded to include many new fields such as international law, environmental law, space law and terrorism law. These new fields have emerged because of the increasing globalisation of business and the need for countries to protect themselves from the effects of climate change, while at the same time taking steps to reduce the risk of terrorist attacks.
Another area of law that is growing rapidly is regulation. This is a system of rules and principles that determine the way in which businesses operate, such as health and safety legislation and taxation laws. The aim is to ensure that businesses comply with the law and do not harm the environment or exploit their workers. It is also used to control the provision of public utilities such as electricity, water and gas. This has become particularly important as privatisation of these services has increased and companies have taken over the management of these services from governments. In addition, it has led to a growth in industry-specific laws such as food and drug regulation and consumer protection law. The study of law is a fascinating and diverse subject with an exciting future ahead of it. NYU Law offers an extensive curriculum in the area of law and legal history, including the longest-running Legal History Colloquium in the country.