What Is Law?


Law is a system of rules established in a society to govern the relationships and activities of its members. A society’s laws are enforceable and binding on its citizens through the judicial system. The department of knowledge concerned with these rules is called jurisprudence.

The goal of law is to ensure that people treat each other fairly. For example, if two people are claiming the same property, the law can decide who owns it and how to resolve the dispute peacefully. Laws also help keep a society safe and well organised. In addition, they respect individual rights and ensure that public officials and police carry out their duties in a way that respects those rights.

Law is the source of a wide variety of scholarly inquiry including legal history, philosophy and economic analysis. It raises many complex questions of social justice, equality and accountability.

A legal system’s law is comprised of a body of legislative statutes, judicial decisions and administrative regulations. In common law jurisdictions, judicial decisions (called case law) are legally binding on future judges in the same jurisdiction unless they are overturned or otherwise invalidated. This principle is known as stare decisis.

In modern systems of law, legislative statutes and judicial decisions are written down and published in legal books, journals or magazines. This makes the law readily available to citizens, although it may not be easily understood. However, some systems of law are not codified and are based on custom and practice and the authority of the judiciary to make new rules in response to changing social circumstances.

The law is also a major subject of study in other disciplines such as sociology, politics, history, economics and religion. It has been influenced by the ideas of philosophers, such as Plato and Aristotle, and theorists, such as Max Weber.

The field of law covers a wide range of topics, from contracts and real estate to family and criminal law. Some areas of law are specialised, such as taxation or banking. Other areas are general, such as labour law or human rights. Increasingly, the practice of law is becoming professionalized, with lawyers attaining distinct professional identity through specified legal procedures and earning specific academic qualifications such as a Bachelor of Laws, a Master of Legal Studies or a Juris Doctor degree. Some lawyers are even given titles of respect, such as Esquire and Barrister.