What Is Law?

Law is a set of rules created by the state that form a framework to ensure a peaceful society. It is enforced by mechanisms created by the state and sanctions can be imposed when the rules are broken or breached. Law is a broad concept that encompasses many different areas of practice and study. The principal purposes of law are to establish standards, maintain order, resolve disputes and protect liberties and rights. However, defining law is difficult as the societal context of law differs from place to place and individuals have many different ideas about what constitutes a legal system.

There are a wide range of topics that are considered part of law, but most fall into one of the following categories:

Criminal law, contract law, administrative law, property law and tort law are general areas of study. Family law, environmental law, employment law and constitutional law are specific areas of practice. Each of these areas has sub-categories that further divide the field into more specialized areas. For example, labour law covers the tripartite relationship of worker, employer and trade union, whereas immigration law is more focused on the process of granting citizenship to people entering a country.

The most important characteristic of a legal system is the rule of law. This is a principle of fairness that applies to the way in which law is applied and the way in which citizens are treated. The rule of law requires that people are not subject to arbitrary government action and that core human and procedural rights are protected.

It also requires that the power of the state is exercised within limits and that there are checks and balances on that power, such as a free press and other institutions that promote transparency in government. The rule of law is a key factor that distinguishes democratic societies from authoritarian states. It is why it is a primary aspiration of many revolutions and why, even in stable democracies, the idea of greater rights for people continues to be a motivating force for revolts.

Legal systems differ from nation to nation and there are significant differences between common law and civil law. Common law, which emerged in England after Magna Carta, places judicial precedent on an equal footing with statutes and regulations. This is in contrast to civil law, which codifies legal principles into a code and does not treat judicial opinions as binding.

The practice of law has evolved and changed throughout the years. Today, law firms publish research insights on a variety of topics to help their clients understand current trends and developments in the law. This can come in the form of articles, blog posts or FAQs. The language used in these pieces can vary from highly technical to more accessible and may take a position on controversial changes to the law. For example, an article on recent changes to employment law might provide an overview of the change, its impact and next steps for clients.