What Is Law?


Law is a set of rules that a government or society enforces to regulate behavior and ensure that people adhere to certain standards of behaviour. It may be a system of laws created by a collective legislature and codified as statutes, or a series of legal precedents established by judges in common law systems. A nation’s laws are influenced by its constitution, written or tacit, and the principles encoded within it.

The subject of law encompasses a wide range of topics, spanning virtually all aspects of human activity. It can be broken down into three broad categories: (1) criminal law; (2) civil law and (3) economic and social policy (including industrial and labour relations, consumer protection, public services and utilities).

Criminal law is the area of the legal system that deals with the punishment of offenders. The subject is vast and includes everything from sex offences to murder and drug trafficking, with the precise definition of a crime still a matter of ongoing debate. Civil law deals with the rights and obligations of individuals, and covers everything from property contracts to marriage and divorce proceedings. It also involves the rights of minorities and disadvantaged groups, such as those with disabilities or mental health issues.

Social and economic policy is a complex field that can be divided into many sub-topics. One of the most important is competition law, which aims to prevent businesses from using their economic strength to distort market prices at the expense of consumers. It can be broken down further into other areas, such as intellectual property law and employment law.

Industrial and labour relations cover a tripartite relationship between employee, employer and trade union, including regulations on collective bargaining, the right to strike and minimum wage requirements. Other subjects include environmental protection and safety regulations, medical jurisprudence and the law of contract.

The law also encompasses the legal responsibilities of private companies, which increasingly are replacing government control of essential services and utilities such as water and energy. Regulation can be a very diverse topic, from antitrust laws to the legalities of air travel and food production. The subject can be overwhelming, but legal articles are a useful resource because they provide answers to frequently asked questions in a concise, clear manner. They often use structure to break the subject down into a number of easy-to-read sections, and frequently reference relevant legislation. The United States Code is a compilation of most public laws currently in force and is an example of such a resource. Other compilations exist for countries in the European Union and elsewhere. Generally, they are organized by subject matter into 50 titles for ease of reference. They may also delete language that has been repealed or superseded and include cross-references to other laws that have been amended. Alternatively, they can be organised by year of publication. Legal articles can be a valuable tool for students and lawyers. They allow them to write about topics that they feel passionate about and to express their opinions about possible reforms.