The Study of Law

Law is a system of rules that is created and enforced by social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior and to ensure that people adhere to certain values and norms. These rules may be codified in statutes and regulations, or established by judges through precedent, as in common law jurisdictions. Private individuals may also create legally binding contracts and arbitration agreements. Law is also the set of concepts that govern a nation-state, though there are many variations in political systems and aspirations for democratic rule and greater rights for citizens.

The rule of law is the idea that all actors, public and private, are accountable to laws that are publicly promulgated, equally enforced, and independently adjudicated. It requires the separation of powers, participation in decision making, and legal certainty, as well as respect for human rights and property rights.

Ultimately, however, the shape of the law and the extent to which it extends to control private as well as public behaviour is determined by those who have power and the nature of their power. The extension of military and bureaucratic power over ordinary lives poses special challenges for law that writers such as Locke or Montesquieu could not have foreseen.

The study of law encompasses a broad range of subjects, from the tripartite relationship between employee, employer and trade union in labour law to the process of criminal trials in court. In addition, there are the specific areas of civil and criminal procedure, evidence law (determining what is admissible in court), and the different types of law governing various activities such as land ownership and the use of force.