What Is Law?


Law is a set of rules that are created and enforced by social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior. Its precise definition is a matter of longstanding debate and it has been variously described as a science and as the art of justice.

In a society, law serves several essential purposes: it can (1) keep the peace, (2) maintain the status quo, (3) preserve individual rights, (4) protect minorities against majorities, (5) promote social justice, and (6) provide for orderly social change. Among other things, legal systems vary in their ability to serve these needs: authoritarian regimes may keep the peace but also oppress minorities and their opponents, while democratic governments are more likely to protect minority interests and provide for peaceful social change.

As a discipline, law is divided into many subfields including criminal and civil law, constitutional law, administrative law, environmental law, international law, family law, and tort law. There are also specialized fields such as maritime law, intellectual property law, and tax law.

A central concept of law is the rule of law, which requires that public and private actors be accountable to laws that are publicly promulgated, stable, and equally enforced and that ensure human rights and the integrity of the legal system. The rule of law also requires that the processes by which law is adopted, administered, adjudicated and enforced be transparent, accountable, equitable, and free from bias.

While the rules of law cannot be empirically verified, their legitimacy can be based on several arguments: First, they are a product of people’s minds; it is impossible for them to exist without humans and their mental operations. Second, they are a reflection of people’s natural instinct to survive: people must follow these laws of self-preservation in order not to get killed by predators or starve to death. Third, laws are also a reflection of the physical limitations inherent in the shape and size of the universe, which dictates what is and is not possible to do.

Law has several important facets, including: the doctrine of precedent, which states that judges must follow the decisions of previous cases unless there are compelling reasons or significantly different facts. The rules of evidence are also an important part of the law: a court must have sufficient proof to convict someone of a crime or to impose a punishment. The law is also concerned with ensuring fairness and equity in the distribution of resources and in the conduct of business. The term law also refers to the professions that deal with advising clients about the law and defending them in courts of law. Legal articles must be written in clear and concise language and avoid technical terms that the general public will not understand. This article describes how to write an engaging and informative legal article. It includes tips on choosing a topic, organizing the article, writing for scannability, using footnotes and hyperlinks, and answering frequently asked questions. It is hoped that this article will inspire writers to write more legal articles that are accessible and interesting for the general public.