What Is Law?

Law is the system of rules and regulations that govern a society or group of people. The law sets out standards for behaviour and defines rights and duties. Its purpose is to control society and prevent abuse of power. The law may be enforced through civil or criminal processes. Its principles can be derived from philosophy, religion, natural science and history. It can also be created by the democratic process or imposed by dictatorship.

A legal system is not complete without a set of laws that cover all the situations that might arise. There must also be guidelines to resolve disputes or conflicts and mechanisms to ensure that the law is applied fairly and consistently. The legal system must be accessible and transparent so that citizens can understand it. It must also be stable and consistent so that citizens can trust it. The law should apply to everyone regardless of their social status or wealth. It must be clear that there are consequences for breaking the law and that people can appeal against decisions that they believe are unfair.

In addition, the legal system must protect the individual from the arbitrary judgement of judges. Humans are fallible and if the administration of justice is left up to the discretion of individuals there would be a risk that their personal motives or dishonest opinions could affect the distribution of justice. The law as fixed principles avoids this.

The Law enables a society to maintain standards and order, settle disputes, provide for social change and protect liberty and property. A country’s law will reflect its values and culture. For example, a nation that values religious freedom may have more relaxed laws about abortion and homosexuality than a country that has stricter moral beliefs. The law can also reflect a country’s economic interests. For example, an economy that is based on exporting commodities will have different laws than one that is primarily a service industry.

The laws that exist in a society are the result of many factors including the social needs, historical traditions and legal technique. Roscoe Pound developed a definition of the law which has three important parts. He argued that the law is mostly a tool of social engineering which attempts to serve its own purposes. The law fulfills social wants, establishes standards and is coercive.

The law is a wide field and there are numerous branches. Some examples include contract law (regulation of agreements to exchange goods or services), criminal law (criminal procedures and penalties), tort law (recompensation for injury to a person or their property) and property law (defining people’s rights to tangible assets such as land, vehicles and shares). Other areas of the law are administrative law, constitutional law, civil rights, family law and corporate law.