What Is Law?


Law is the system of rules created and enforced through social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior. It can be established through a collective legislative process, resulting in statutes; through executive order, resulting in regulations; or through judicial interpretation of existing law, resulting in case law. Private individuals can also create legally binding contracts, including arbitration agreements. A person who violates a law may be prosecuted or sued in court. Law may be interpreted as an art, a science, or a philosophy, but its precise definition is subject to ongoing debate.

The concept of law is central to numerous academic fields, including legal history, philosophy, economic analysis, and sociology. It is important to understand the function of law in a given society, as well as how the structure and process of law evolve over time. This understanding is a critical component of legal analysis, as it is used to determine the effectiveness of laws in achieving their intended purposes.

The earliest discussions of the law began with natural law, a philosophical position that asserted that certain principles are universally true and applicable. This concept is based on a view of nature that considers all aspects of existence as interconnected, with each influencing the other. The principle of law in this view is that the consequences of an action are inevitably related to that action’s intent.

In the modern world, law is generally defined as the enforceable rules and customs of a society that are designed to ensure order and provide protection for individuals. While the exact purpose of law varies between nations, it typically serves to keep the peace, maintain the status quo, preserve individual rights, promote social justice, and allow for orderly social change. Some governments, however, do not adequately serve these purposes (e.g., dictatorships).

A broad range of legal subjects fall under the umbrella term law, including criminal and civil laws, torts, contract law, and administrative law. Criminal law deals with conduct that threatens social stability and can result in punishment (such as imprisonment or fines). Civil law, on the other hand, addresses lawsuits between parties.

Some lawyers specialize in specific areas of law, such as divorce, family, real estate, or business law. Others practice general law, resolving all types of legal disputes. Some attorneys work for government agencies, such as the police department or public defenders’ offices. Others are employed in private firms or as solo practitioners.

A court’s docket is a record of all cases that are pending or have been resolved. A judge’s charge to a jury outlines how the law applies to the facts of a case. A case that is heard en banc is one in which all members of a court participate, rather than just the usual quorum. A brief is a written statement submitted by a lawyer for each side of a case that explains why the judge should rule in favor of that attorney’s client. It is important to understand these and other terms used in the law to be an effective advocate for your client.