What is Law?


Law is a set of rules that society creates and enforces to govern behaviour and protect individuals. It is the basis for civil and criminal justice systems and other state institutions that regulate people’s daily lives. It can be created by a group legislature, resulting in statutes; by the executive through decrees and regulations; or by judges through precedent (called stare decisis) in common law jurisdictions. Individuals may also create their own legally binding contracts.

Law serves many purposes, but the main ones are establishing standards and maintaining order, resolving disputes, and protecting liberties and rights. In general, law makes it legal for people to do certain things and illegal for them to do other things. It can be enforced by police or courts, with punishments such as fines or jail time.

Different countries have different laws and legal systems, but most have a constitution for the overall framework and other laws for matters of detail. The source of these laws varies widely, from religious precepts like the Jewish Halakha and Islamic Sharia to cultural habits and traditions, and further human elaboration through interpretation, jurisprudence, reasoning by analogy, Ijma or consensus.

Some specific areas of law include medical jurisprudence, which covers the privacy of a patient’s conversations with their physician and the doctor’s duty to disclose information to law enforcement in some situations; aviation law, which concerns the safety and regulation of aircraft, ships and trains; property law, which includes the rights and obligations people have when buying and selling land and buildings (called real estate) and objects such as furniture and clothing (called personal property); and tort law, which covers compensation for damage caused by car accidents or defamation. Legal professionals are called attorneys in the United States, solicitors in Britain and barristers in Australia.