The Basics of Law


Law consists of the rules that social or governmental institutions impose upon people to regulate behavior. It is often characterized as both a science and an art.

A legal system may serve many purposes, from keeping the peace and maintaining the status quo to preserving individual rights and promoting social justice. But the precise role of law varies from nation to nation. Laws can be imposed by individuals or governments, and may be enforced by courts or police forces. Some legal systems are authoritarian, while others are democratic.

Legal rights are often created implicitly, through the establishment of legal relations exhibiting the forms and functions of rights without explicitly mentioning the term (Raz 1979: 268-69). For example, a contract law that lays out duties between two parties may establish the right to perform an act even if that act violates a person’s moral duty not to do so.

The main branch of law is common law, which consists of decisions and precedents that are applied across a broad spectrum of legal issues, from contracts to property to criminal justice. This type of law is typically interpreted and enforced by judges.

In the United States, a federal court system interprets and applies laws passed by Congress and signed by the president. These laws are called statutes or bills. Law firms also produce research insights about specific areas of the law, such as employment law or legislative changes. These research insights can take the form of articles or blog posts. They can be more formal and include footnotes, or they can be less technical, and aimed at clients who are already aware of the issues.