What Is Law?

Law is a body of rules that governs the activities and relationships of a society. It is enforced by a controlling authority and sanctions can be imposed if the laws are broken. Laws may be created by group legislatures resulting in statutes, or by individuals resulting in contracts. They can also be imposed by a sovereign state through decrees and regulations. The study of law is called jurisprudence and involves the study of the nature of laws, their sources and development. It is a broad discipline that encompasses many different areas of law, such as criminal law, civil law and public law.

Legal systems vary worldwide, with some relying on common law and others utilizing a civil law system. In common law systems, the law is derived from judicial decisions of cases that are brought to trial and compiled into a body of law called case law. In contrast, the legal system of countries that utilize a civil law system generally uses statutes to formulate and implement the law.

A person who studies law is called a lawyer or jurist. It is a highly respected profession and a career that is becoming increasingly appealing to young people as the world becomes more complex and litigious. Law is a highly analytical discipline that requires a thorough understanding of the constitution, legislation and the justice system. A good legal mind is able to read and analyse complex documents, such as contracts, deeds and pleadings and be able to predict how the judge will rule in any given situation.

In addition to regulating behaviour and providing a framework for a peaceful society, law is also used as a tool for social engineering. This can be seen in the use of racial, religious and ethnic discrimination as tools to manipulate a population. A further example of this can be found in the way in which the law is used to control economic and industrial relations, such as trade unions or collective bargaining, ensuring that workers’ social needs are being met.

The field of law is enormous and has countless specialisms, including contract law (which regulates agreements to exchange goods or services for value), constitutional law and international law, labour and employment law, property law and family law. There are also branches of law that focus on specific sectors, such as banking and financial regulation, which sets minimum standards for banks to meet, and environmental law, which governs how we manage the natural resources like water, oil and energy, especially in light of privatisation. These different fields of law interact in a complicated and often conflicting manner, which is why it is so important to have a clear definition of law.