What Is Law?


Law is a system of rules for behavior, often based on moral and religious precepts. In some religions, laws are considered divine and unchanging. In others, they are the result of human elaboration to create practical systems of justice that serve a community’s needs and values. The legal system is a vital part of any society. It provides a structure for settling disputes, enforcing rights and obligations and punishing wrongdoers. A nation’s laws can vary widely, depending on culture, history and location.

A country’s law reflects the traditions and customs of its citizens, as well as its political system. For example, a common law system is found in the United States and many of its former colonies, while a civil code is the dominant form of law in most Western European countries. Some Asian countries, such as Japan and Malaysia, have adopted a legal tradition that blends common law with their own cultural influences.

Besides regulating the activities of people, businesses and governments, law can help shape society by setting standards for acceptable behaviors. For example, the law can prohibit the sale of certain substances or require that a driver wear a seatbelt. The law can also set safety standards for airplanes and require that people take medical exams before flying.

A legal term, especially in the United States, for a court decision determining the rights and claims of parties in a lawsuit. The decision is the official decision of the judge, and it determines the legal outcome of a case. The ruling may include a ruling on the legality of an action or a determination of the facts in a case, and it may contain a judgment imposing a fine or order for restitution.

An appeal is a request for another court to decide whether a trial was conducted properly. A person who makes an appeal is called an appellant, and both plaintiffs and defendants can file them. The decision of an appeals court is known as an appellate judgment.