What Is Law?

Law is a system of rules that a society or government develops to deal with criminal behaviour, business agreements and social relationships. The word can also be used to refer to the people who work in this area. Examples of the latter include police officers and lawyers.

The laws of a country are a vital part of its culture and define its identity. They influence politics, economics, history and society in many ways. A nation’s laws can be shaped by its constitution, whether written or tacit; its political structure and power; its historical legacy; its legal tradition and values; and the principles of justice it espouses.

A nation’s laws can vary widely between countries. Some of the key functions they can serve include keeping peace and maintaining the status quo; preserving individual rights; protecting minorities against majorities; promoting social justice; and providing for orderly social change. However, the ability of a legal system to fulfill these functions is heavily dependent on who makes and enforces the laws. In a country with authoritarian rule, for instance, it may be impossible to achieve these functions without violence or oppression.

In democratic countries, a legal system serves the citizens well by upholding their basic human rights and providing them with the tools they need to take control of their own lives. It ensures that a person’s wealth or social class does not determine his or her chances of getting a fair hearing in court and it can provide an opportunity for individuals to collaborate with each other on public affairs.

There are many different branches of law that encompass all aspects of a citizen’s daily life. These include contract law, which regulates agreements to exchange goods or services; family law, which covers marriage and divorce proceedings and the rights of children; property law, which determines people’s rights and duties toward tangible assets (e.g. real property, such as land or buildings; and personal property, which includes movable items like cars and computers); and intellectual property law, which governs copyrights, trademarks and patents.

A lawyer’s job is to advocate for his or her clients in courts and other legal proceedings. There are several professional bodies that a lawyer must be member of in order to practise law. In addition, modern lawyers must meet certain professional requirements in terms of education and training (e.g. passing a qualifying exam, having a degree in law; or being a barrister or solicitor).

Some types of law are explicitly based on religious precepts. These are commonly referred to as Sharia or canon law, depending on the religion in question. Most legal systems, however, rely on further human elaboration to create thorough and detailed legal frameworks. These are usually contained in books and manuals such as the Talmud and the Midrash, or the Quran and Islamic fiqh. The resulting body of law is then applied by judges and governments.