What Is Law?

Law is a body of rules and practices enforceable by institutions such as social groups, governments or businesses. The enforcement of these rules often involves penalties if they are broken. The precise definition of law is debated and varies across societies. Some definitions include criminal laws and civil rights, others include commercial laws or environmental protection laws. The term is also used in a more general sense to refer to the whole set of laws governing an area, for example, the United States is referred to as one country with unified law.

Some legal systems, such as common law, rely on decisions of judges, which are compiled and published as case law. Other systems use legislative statutes that explicitly state the rules to be followed by courts. In either case, the goal is to create a system of law that is logically structured and readily accessible to citizens, jurists or lawyers.

Most countries have some form of law to govern their citizens, businesses and public services. This includes legislation and regulation of businesses such as banking, insurance or utilities (water, electricity). This also covers the management of public service provision by private companies and government bodies such as local councils. These types of laws usually apply to all citizens in the jurisdiction, although there are specialised and narrow areas of law such as anti-discrimination or child labour laws which may only apply to certain segments of society.

The discipline of law encompasses the study of a wide range of subject areas including property, contract, criminal and tort law. In its broadest sense, it is a systematic and objective method of describing the behaviour of individuals or groups within a society, whether to promote peace and safety, or to discourage disorder and violence. Modern law also deals with issues of censorship, crime and punishment, policing and the military. Individuals can be convicted under criminal laws, whereas contracts and other agreements can be made under contract law. Professionally, the practice of law is overseen by the legal system and regulated by a professional body such as a bar association or law society, and individuals must obtain a recognised qualification (either a Bachelor of Laws, a Master of Laws, a Masters in Legal Studies, a Juris Doctor or another degree) to be called a lawyer. The term “law” is also used colloquially to mean an indisputable fact about the world and its forces, such as the statement: “It’s against the law to be a murderer.” This meaning reflects the scientific concept of law, which describes what must happen but does not describe why it happens. This contrasts with more anthropological concepts of law, such as custom or norms. Beliefs about what is lawful vary widely and depend on a number of factors, including cultural context, political ideology, religion and philosophy. These views can affect the way laws are created, enforced and interpreted. These beliefs can also influence the ethical conduct of lawyers.

By adminssk
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