What Is Law?

What Is Law?


Law is the system of rules a society or government creates to govern behavior. These laws may be written down, as in the case of a constitutional document, or they may be unwritten. They are enforced through the power of the state, typically by military force and police. Law shapes politics, economics, history and society in a variety of ways. It also serves to mediate the relations between people.

The precise nature of law varies from one nation to another. It can be created by a group legislature in the form of statutes or by a single legislator through decrees and regulations, or it can be established by judges through precedent. The latter is known as common law. In some countries, such as the United States, judicial decisions are explicitly recognized as law on an equal footing with legislative statutes and executive regulations. This is the principle of stare decisis. Other countries, such as Japan, use a civil law tradition that places more emphasis on the legal code and less on judicial precedent.

Each country’s law differs from the others in many ways, but there are some fundamental similarities. Most countries have some type of criminal code that punishes certain activities. These codes vary among the states and the federal government. Similarly, most nations have contract law that regulates the exchange of goods and services, including contracts for the provision of labor.

Another major area of law is property law, which defines the rights and duties of ownership of tangible things, such as land or cars. This can be divided into two parts: real property and personal property. Real property refers to anything that is attached to the earth, such as buildings or land, and personal property is everything else, including movable items like clothing and computers. Intellectual property, the law of corporations and trusts are other fields of law.

In addition, most countries have some type of administrative law that sets the general parameters for their government. This can be influenced by religion or social values. For example, a constitution can define the basic structure of a country’s government and set out a clear definition of what constitutes a crime.

A person who studies or practices law is called a lawyer, judge or other member of the legal profession. Other people who deal with the law in some way are called legal assistants, paralegals or support staff. The study of the law is called law school.

The practice of law is often a lucrative and fulfilling career. Many people are drawn to the field because of its ability to help make society more just and equitable. However, the responsibilities and demands of a career in the legal profession can be overwhelming for some. Some people find it difficult to juggle work, home life and family while others simply don’t have the right temperament to be lawyers or judges. Whatever the reasons, some people decide to leave the legal field and pursue other careers.