What Is Law?


A body of rules that regulates the conduct of a community and is enforced by a controlling authority through penalties. Law can be derived from custom and policies, or it can be written in the form of statutes and judicial decisions. Law can be interpreted in various ways by different legal traditions and schools of thought. Some theories of law emphasize practicality and utilitarianism, while others reflect a more moral and mystical view.

There are many types of law, including tort law, which covers injuries to persons or their property, and criminal law, which governs crimes against the state and its people. Business law includes contracts, partnership agreements, and corporate charters, while property law deals with the ownership of land and buildings. International law encompasses treaties, international agreements, and laws governing foreign affairs.

When determining the law in any given situation, judges must consider the facts of the case, any relevant statutes, and earlier cases or rulings. This is known as stare decisis, or the law of precedent. In addition, judges must take into account the current social climate and moral and political theories, as well as their own personal prejudices.

Law serves several purposes, including establishing standards, maintaining order, resolving disputes, and protecting liberties and rights. Some legal systems serve these goals better than others, however. For example, an authoritarian government may keep the peace and maintain the status quo, but it can also oppress minorities and delay or suppress social change.