What Is Law?


Law is a system of rules and regulations that a society or government develops in order to deal with crime, business agreements, and social relationships. It also refers to people who practice or study the law.

A legal system has many branches, such as criminal law, civil law, and family law. Each branch of the law deals with specific areas of human activity. For example, contract law governs all agreements to exchange goods or services, and property law outlines citizens’ rights and duties toward tangible possessions (such as houses and cars) and intangible assets (like bank accounts and shares of stock).

Different kinds of laws exist throughout the world because each nation has its own history and culture. However, there are certain fundamentals that all laws share. They include:

The primary purposes of law are to establish standards, maintain order, resolve disputes, and protect liberty and rights. The way a nation makes and enforces its laws is the main factor that determines whether a law serves its principal purposes.

For example, a nation that has an authoritarian government might do well in keeping the peace and maintaining the status quo but may fail to promote justice or protect minority rights. In contrast, a democracy might be more successful in promoting justice and protecting minorities, but may struggle to provide for peaceful or orderly social change.

Some scholars believe that law comes from nature, and that human beings have a natural ability to reason and understand the law. This theory is sometimes referred to as natural law. It relies on perceived universal moral principles as a basis for laws.

Other scholars believe that the law is created by people, and that it is a product of culture. They suggest that a particular culture’s philosophy, religion, or custom shapes the law that is created and enforced by that country. In contrast, other scholars believe that the law is a product of the political process, and that it is shaped by how a nation’s leaders think about politics, economics, and society.

Law is often complex and difficult to understand. Despite its complexity, it is important to have an understanding of the law in order to participate in a democratic society. The articles in this section are meant to help the reader understand key concepts and vocabulary related to law.

An article by a law firm that specializes in employment matters discusses how to manage pregnancy and parental leave in the workplace. It explains the law through a series of hypothetical situations, and uses headings to break the article into sub-topics. It also includes a glossary and references to relevant legislation. Several other articles from the firm focus on issues related to the workplace, such as a discussion of employee rights during illness and a guide to firing employees. These articles are titled eAlerts, and can be found on the firm’s blog.