The Basics of Law

The Basics of Law


Law is a complex topic with many facets, from the practical application of the rules and procedures of a legal system to scholarly study of theories such as legal history, philosophy, economic analysis and sociology. Law also raises important questions about justice and the proper distribution of goods, services, privileges and burdens in society.

A central purpose of law is to regulate behavior through the use of penalties for violations. This is achieved through a combination of legislative and judicial processes. The legislative process involves enacting laws and regulations through bills that are passed by legislatures, often in the form of statutes. The judicial process consists of interpreting and applying the laws and deciding cases that are brought before courts.

Some of the major areas in law are contract law, property law, criminal law and family law. In addition, the law covers a variety of other topics such as administrative law (i.e., the laws governing government agencies) and patent law.

Contract law, for example, deals with agreements between two or more parties to exchange goods or services. Property law defines people’s rights and duties toward tangible property, such as land or buildings, and intangible property, such as bank accounts or shares of stock. Criminal law addresses conduct that is harmful to social order and can result in imprisonment or fines.

The practice of law encompasses a wide range of activities, including advising clients on legal problems and representing them in court. Lawyers are also involved in drafting contracts, writing legal articles and books, lecturing on law and judging legal competitions. They are often called upon to give expert testimony in a case.

Law is an ancient phenomenon and it has been described as both a science and an art. Its precise definition is the subject of long-standing debate and varies according to different philosophical schools of thought. A central theme of the debate is whether the practice of law should be seen as a moral science or an empirical discipline.

There are a number of terms that are important to know when studying law, such as:

jurisdiction – The authority of a court to decide a lawsuit. Usually, courts have limited jurisdiction; for example, a federal court can only rule on a case that arises in the United States.

arraignment – A proceeding in which the defendant is brought into court, told of the charges against him or her and asked to plead guilty or not guilty.

counterclaim – A claim made by the plaintiff against the defendant. In general, counterclaims are not allowed unless they relate to the same issue as the main claim.

evidence – The facts used in court to support a party’s claims. This includes written documents, witness testimony and circumstantial evidence.

Law is a system of rules created by a community to control behavior. The rules are enforceable by a centralized authority and are enforced through the courts. The sources of law are legislation, judicial decisions and custom. The system of civil law that is prevalent in most countries today originated from Roman law, which was codified under Theodosius II and Justinian I and rediscovered by late medieval Europe.