What Is Law?

Law is the set of rules a society develops to govern itself and enforce the rights and duties of its members. The principal functions of law are establishing standards, maintaining order, resolving disputes and protecting liberties and rights. Law also reflects social, economic and cultural factors; for example, family and community practices can have a major influence on people’s interpretation of the law.

Law covers a huge variety of subjects: a person’s relationship to their employer is governed by contract law; the way people invest money is regulated by trust law; intellectual property laws (copyright, patent and trademark) protect creative works like art, music or literature from being copied; tort law helps people claim compensation when they or their belongings are damaged or harmed in some way; criminal law punishes people who break the law; and the law of international affairs deals with relations between countries. Each of these areas of law is complex, involving many different kinds of laws and lawyers, judges and other professionals who study and interpret the law.

Despite the wide range of laws that exist, the principles of the law are usually fairly consistent across jurisdictions. This is because most of the laws are based on similar ideas, developed over time through practice and a common set of values that people have. Law’s sources are varied – culture and custom play an important role, but religion also provides inspiration for many people. Many laws are based on a particular religious text, for example the Jewish Talmud or Islamic Shari’ah. Christian canon law also survives in some church communities.

Most of the laws of a country are established by the state, although there are some laws that are created or enforced by people, groups or organisations other than government. In the last century there have been revolutions against tyrannical governments, and the aspiration for greater democracy has become one of the main goals of modern world politics.

It takes a lot of work and thought to create and uphold laws. Lawyers have a very important job in interpreting the law, but anyone with the right research skills and a pragmatic mindset can explore legal issues systematically.

It is important to understand that law is not just an abstract concept but is a living thing that is constantly evolving and changing. The laws that are made by a country reflect the culture and values of that nation and society, and even the language used in legal documents can change over time. This is why it is important to keep up-to-date with the latest developments in law, and why legal journals are such an essential part of any library.