What Is Law?


Law is a system of rules created and enforced by social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior. A society’s laws can be based on religious precepts as in the Jewish Halakha and Islamic Sharia, or they may be secular. Those laws can be written as statutes, decrees and regulations, or they can be judge-made through precedent, as in the common law of many countries.

The law defines how people must behave, and it protects the rights of individuals. It is a tool that shapes politics, economics and history in various ways.

For example, it defines what actions are punishable by the state and how property is protected. It establishes a standard that everyone must follow and enforces a fair, equitable and efficient justice system. It also ensures that government and private actors are accountable to the community.

The law influences many aspects of a country’s culture and economy, including religion, education, family structure, business and industry. It has a strong impact on the world’s economy, because it affects trade and investment. In addition, the law influences the way a nation organizes itself, its social structures and relationships, and how it perceives itself in the world.

Lawyers, judges and police officials work to enforce the law. Some lawyers specialize in particular areas of law, such as employment law or divorce cases. Others are general practitioners and deal with a variety of legal issues. A lawyer can be called an attorney, a barrister or a solicitor. Titles of respect are Esquire, for a barrister, and Doctor of Law, for a person with a PhD in Law.

Law is a complex subject. It is different from other sciences because it deals with normative statements – how people ought to behave. This is in contrast to descriptive statements, which describe facts, such as gravity or the law of supply and demand.

Because laws are so complex, they can be interpreted in a variety of ways. A court’s decision is often dependent on its interpretation of the law and the evidence presented in a case. Judges must be unbiased and independent. They must be able to decide whether the law has been applied correctly and must be consistent.

In addition to enforcing the law, a major goal of the legal system is to resolve disputes and conflicts between individuals. For example, if two people claim to own the same piece of land, the law can settle the dispute by determining who owns it.

Other goals of the law include regulating the activities of the private sector, such as utilities, energy, water and telecommunications; and ensuring that all citizens are treated fairly by police and public authorities. There are also private legal issues, such as contract and commercial law. Disputes in these areas are settled through arbitration and mediation, rather than by lawsuits in the courts. The law also regulates the activities of businesses, such as banking and insurance. It is important for these activities to be regulated in order to provide financial stability and to protect consumers.