What Is Law?


Law is a system of rules that social or governmental institutions develop to regulate behavior and enforce rights. It can also refer to the people who work in that system: police; judges; lawyers; etc. Law can be a field of study in its own right, and its history is an important part of the story of civilization itself.

In modern society, most countries have some kind of legal system in place to govern their citizens and businesses. The exact nature of law can vary from country to country, but there are many common features. The precise definition of a law can be debated, but most societies have some form of criminal laws to protect their citizens against violent crime; contracts that are enforceable by courts; and property rights.

There are different types of laws in use around the world, but most have developed from a mix of ancient legal traditions and more modern developments. The most well known type of law is probably common law, which doesn’t contain formal statutes but instead relies on court-established legal precedents. Judges create case law by ruling on specific cases or disputes, and it becomes the foundation for future decisions in similar situations.

Other kinds of law include civil laws, which deal with disputes between individuals; and criminal laws, which deal with offenses against a state or local community. Contract law sets out the terms that people agree to when they buy goods or services, and property law defines a person’s rights and duties toward tangible (like land and buildings) and intangible (like bank accounts and shares of stock) assets.