What Is Law?
Law is a system of rules and penalties that society creates to keep order and protect property, establish justice, and help people resolve disputes. Laws set the standards for behavior in a community and hold everyone to them regardless of their status or circumstances. If someone breaks a law, they may be punished by paying a fine or even going to jail. In addition to regulating behavior, laws can also define rights and obligations, enforce contracts, and ensure financial stability.
In its broadest sense, Law describes any activity or practice undertaken by a member of a society who claims to act in a role based on professional training and experience. This can include teaching, advising, advocating, and representing individuals or organizations on legal issues. Law can also be used to describe a career path, such as a lawyer or judge.
The Law shapes politics, economics, history and society in many ways. The precise definition of law is controversial, and the concept varies widely between countries and societies. In the modern world, there are a wide variety of legal systems, ranging from those that strictly codify their laws to those that rely on judges to interpret and develop them.
Most nations rely on laws to regulate social and commercial activities, prevent crime, and settle disputes. The law defines and protects property rights, sets minimum wages, establishes minimum health and safety standards, and imposes taxes. The law can also establish rules about marriage, divorce, and the custody of children. The law is often described as a moral or ethical code, but it is different from other types of codes in several important ways.
Legal scholars and practitioners typically divide the world’s laws into two main groups: civil law and common law. Civil law consists of a comprehensive system of rules consolidated into codes that are easily accessible to citizens and jurists. This system is influenced by Roman law and adapted by the medieval legal system of precedent and case law. Civil law systems are often characterized by clear expression of rules, avoidance of excessive detail, and the ability to adapt to social change through interpretation and jurisprudence.
Common law is a less comprehensive legal system that uses judges to decide cases by applying precedential legal decisions to new situations. Its roots are in Anglo-Saxon England, and it was shaped by Latin legal maxims. Common law is still in use, and it has been influential on the legal systems of most of the world.
Other specialized areas of law include criminal law, immigration law, family law, and corporate and commercial law. International law addresses activities and relations among nations, such as the law of war and the law of treaties. The rule of law is an ideal that seeks to ensure adherence to laws that are publicly promulgated, equally enforced, independently adjudicated and transparent. Lawyers are trained professionals who gain their distinctive identities through a specific process of study and education (typically earning an academic degree such as a Bachelor of Laws, a Bachelor of Civil Law or a Juris Doctor) and are regulated by law societies and bar associations.