What Is Law?


Law is the system of rules created and enforced by social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior and settle disputes. It can also refer to a particular branch of the law, such as criminal or business laws. It can also be used to refer to a profession that involves advising people about the law and representing them in court, such as lawyers and judges.

The term law is also used to describe the body of legal precedent that exists for a certain jurisdiction, or for a specific type of dispute, such as contract law or property law. In general, laws are based on a set of principles that can be interpreted and applied by courts in different ways according to local customs and cultures. A general distinction can be made between civil law jurisdictions, where a legislature codifies and consolidates laws, and common law jurisdictions, where judges create a body of precedent.

A fundamental principle of law is that it reflects the nature and value of human beings, including their rights and duties. The law is a means for the government to ensure that its citizens act in accordance with this value system. For example, the law protects citizens from discrimination and provides for due process in disputes with their governments or private parties. It also protects the freedom of expression, the right to privacy and the right to property.

The law is a complex subject in terms of its methods and theories. From a methodological viewpoint, laws are normative, and therefore they do not have the descriptive or causal character of empirical science (such as a law of gravity) or even social science (such as a law of supply and demand in economics). Laws are also complex in that their statements are not merely descriptive, but also prescriptive. They say what right-holders ought to do or may do, or what they have a duty to do or not do.

The study of law is an important aspect of the philosophy of rights and justice. Laws are also a crucial source of knowledge in fields such as economics, history and politics. Legal studies can also be a good career option, with job opportunities in law firms and in governmental agencies, universities, or the armed forces. It is possible to specialise in specific areas of law, such as employment law, tax law and banking law. In addition, it is possible to become a lawyer, which is a highly respected and prestigious profession. Lawyers are recognised as professionals through special qualifications or procedures, such as passing a qualifying examination and completing a legal education course that results in the award of a degree such as a Bachelor of Laws or a Juris Doctor. In some countries, there are also specialist bar associations and law societies that oversee the practice of law. These bodies can sanction lawyers for misconduct, and provide a range of benefits to their members. Laws are also increasingly being developed for new frontiers, such as space law and e-commerce laws.