What Is Law?

Law is a system of rules made by an authority meant to protect people’s lives, liberty and property. Often, it is enforced by police or courts and may involve punishments. A professional who studies and applies laws is called a lawyer, jurist or attorney-at-law. Law can refer to laws in general, or to specific areas like employment, taxation or medical laws.

Countries usually have a constitution for their overall legal framework and additional laws for the details. Law shapes politics, economics, history and society in many ways and serves as a mediator of relations between individuals.

The basic purposes of law are establishing standards, maintaining order, resolving disputes and protecting rights and liberties. Theories of the purpose of law have ranged from utilitarian theories to those based on ideas of natural justice or the will of a deity.

A person can write about any kind of law if they have the proper research skills and pragmatic mindset and the will to explore the issues systematically. However, the topic of law is extremely complex because it touches on all aspects of human life. For example, contract law regulates agreements to exchange goods or services. Tort law allows people to make compensation claims (repayment) when they or their property are harmed, while criminal law deals with offenses against the state or its citizens.

Intellectual property law sets out the rights that people have over their creations, such as art or music. Trademark law relates to the names of companies and their distinctive logos or marks. Trust law relates to the way money is saved and invested for later use. Labour law focuses on the relationship between employers, employees and trade unions. Environmental law and biolaw are interdisciplinary areas that study the intersection between laws and the natural and social sciences.

In most Western countries, the law is based on English common law or a French system of civil law rooted in the Corpus Juris Civilis. A few countries use other legal traditions, such as Roman-Dutch or Scots law. In addition to the different legal systems, there are also differences between statutory and regulatory law, because legislative or administrative decisions give only terse statements of general principle. Courts’ and judges’ decisions, on the other hand, provide detailed explanations of their rationales and policies. These can be found in written decisions called case law. The judicial reasoning behind a decision is sometimes used as precedent, or persuasive authority, by other courts. In this way, the law gradually evolves. The law is constantly being updated to reflect changes in social or technological change. However, it can be difficult to keep up with the changing law because of this complexity and its interdisciplinary nature. Consequently, it is important to understand the structure and development of the law to stay current with it. Moreover, the societal significance of the law is a major reason why a career in law is so attractive to young people. It offers prestige, financial reward and stability not available in many other professions.