What Is Law?


Law is a system of rules created by a society or government in order to deal with criminal activity, business contracts and social relationships. It can also refer to a particular area of law, such as labour law or medical jurisprudence.

Different countries and legal systems have different ideas about what laws should be. The law shapes politics, economics, history and society in many ways. Some of these ways are positive, such as ensuring stability, but the law can also be negative, such as when it leads to injustice. The quote “Not everything that is legal is just” is a good reminder of this.

Most legal systems have a combination of common and civil law. In common law systems decisions made by courts are regarded as “law” on equal footing with legislative statutes and executive regulations. Judges must use a complex process to determine what the law is on a particular case. This involves locating any relevant statutes and cases, interpreting them from a legal perspective and then using principles, analogies and statements of what the law is to decide how to apply it to the facts of the present case. Decisions by higher courts and those made earlier are considered to have more authority than those by lower courts.

Other types of laws include intellectual property law (protecting copyright, trademarks and patents) and trust law (setting out rules for people to save money in a bank or building society). Family law deals with marriage, divorce and child custody proceedings. Aviation law covers the safety and operation of aircraft, and is framed by national civil aviation acts, which are usually aligned with international standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organisation or ICAO.

Almost all countries have a justice system where people who are charged with crimes go to court and have their innocence or guilt decided by a jury of their peers. The law shapes their trials, including what evidence is allowed and who will argue the case for each side.

The law can also cover the rights of people to their own bodies, such as the right to choose when to get a abortion and the right to privacy in regards to health records. It can also cover the rights to property, such as land and houses, and to financial assets like investments and pension funds. The law can even define how to behave, such as not making obscene or threatening phone calls or stealing other people’s property. All of these aspects of the law shape the way a society works and the relationships amongst its members. It is important that the laws of a country are fair and just. If they are not, the society will be unstable. The societal rules should be transparent, and everyone should have the opportunity to appeal against decisions if they feel they have been unfair.