What is the Law?

The law shapes politics, economics, history and society in a wide variety of ways. It is a complex subject and many books and debates have been written about it. A common theme is that the law is a set of rules created by a state which form a framework to ensure a peaceful society. If these laws are broken then sanctions can be imposed.

For example, in most countries there are laws about not stealing. If you steal, then you may get put in prison. The law also regulates relationships between people. For instance, contract law deals with agreements (like buying a bus ticket) and property law deals with people’s rights and duties toward tangible objects they own or have a legal claim to, such as land and buildings. In addition, the law may cover the use of weapons and force in a country. The law of war and the laws of terrorism are examples of this.

In many countries the legal system is highly complex. For example, in the United States, there are statutes – duly enacted laws from Congress and signed by the President – and regulations, which are formally promulgated by a federal or state regulator. Finally, there are court decisions – rulings by judges in particular cases – which not only apply to the specific case they are made in but which carry broader legal weight that can be used as a precedent in future cases.

These laws are interpreted by humans, normally by lawyers who are not perfect and have their own sense of right and wrong. The law is thus often controversial. It can also be influenced by morals and religion and by the fact that most people have different senses of what is fair and unfair.

Law is a hugely important part of all societies, and there are many different kinds of laws. There are some laws that apply to all people eg the law against murder. There are other laws that only apply to certain groups of people, for example the law against discrimination. There are also laws that regulate activities like banking, telecommunications and water supply.

In addition to these laws there are rules about how to practice law, which is usually regulated by an independent professional body. Lawyers must be trained, and have to meet minimum standards of professionalism. Depending on the nature of their work, lawyers may be required to carry out due diligence in relation to clients. This is a vital aspect of protecting client confidentiality. In addition, many lawyers are required to keep up to date with the latest developments in their fields of law. This is especially true for those who specialise in complicated areas of the law, such as corporate finance or taxation.