What is Law?
Law is a system of rules and guidelines established in a society by its institutions. The laws govern a nation and are enforced by its courts and other government agencies. Law covers all areas of human activity including social, civil, criminal and commercial activities. There are four principal purposes of law: establishing standards, maintaining order, resolving disputes and protecting liberties and rights. Law differs from place to place and over time as it is influenced by culture and customs as well as societal values and political systems.
The study of Law is an integral part of many academic disciplines such as history, philosophy, sociology and economic analysis. The topic is also a subject of popular interest and debate as seen in the numerous books and articles written on it.
In its idealistic sense, law can be defined as the “body of principles recognised and enforced by the State in the administration of justice”. This is similar to the definition of Law given by Roman jurists. This type of law focuses on command and obligation. The idea is that God has commanded something and it is our duty to obey the law, and if we don’t obey the law there is punishment.
Another view of Law takes a more pragmatic approach. The idea here is that there are conflicting groups in the society and that the law is a tool for harmonizing these groups. The main function of law is to set the minimum standard for acceptable behaviour, for example a crime like murder may not be tolerated in a society. The law tries to maintain some semblance of order in society by imposing penalties for certain actions (like injuring another person with no justification).
Some fields of law are highly specialized. For instance, space law deals with international aspects of space commerce and exploration, while tax law relates to issues like value added tax, corporate and income tax. Other fields of law include aviation and shipping, banking and insurance as well as intellectual property.
Legal practice is a distinct professional activity requiring specialised knowledge of law and specialized skills in interpreting, researching and applying the law. Lawyers are typically trained in a law school and must complete a bar exam. Many countries require the formation of a bar association or bar council to regulate lawyers.
The law is a complex area of inquiry with a wide range of topics and issues that need to be considered. For a more general discussion of the field, see legal profession; legal education; and legal theory. For an examination of specific areas of the law, see constitutional law; copyright law; criminal law; family law; property law; tort law and tax law. The relationship between law and other social structures is discussed in a number of articles, such as constitution; ideology; political party; and political system. Law is also examined in terms of its effects on the economy, such as through articles on labor law; economics; and jurisprudence.