What Is Law?

Law is the system of rules that forms a framework to ensure a peaceful society. It is enforced by mechanisms such as police and courts. Sanctions are imposed if the rules are broken.

People differ in their ideas about what the law should be. However, most agree that the law should be fair and impartial. It should protect the rights of minorities against majorities and promote social justice. In addition, the law should make it possible for a country to change in an orderly way. In the past, the main source of law has been government. However, today the law is also based on custom and tradition, as well as on private contracts and agreements.

It is not easy to give a clear definition of the law. Different legal systems have many different ideas about the law. Some think the law should be written down. Others believe the law should be based on natural processes, while others prefer laws that are based on moral principles or the will of a deity. The term law is often used to mean a body of laws or a particular set of laws. It is also used to refer to a legal system, the constitution of a nation, or a treaty.

The relationship between the law and political structures is complex. Some nations have authoritarian governments, while others have democratic institutions and an aspiration for greater “rights” for citizens. Each year, many revolts against existing political-legal authority take place.

For example, immigration law concerns the right of foreigners to live and work in a nation-state, and nationality law involves the process by which an individual acquires or loses citizenship. Family law covers marriage and divorce proceedings, children’s rights and property rights in the event of separation. Labour law is concerned with a tripartite industrial relationship between worker, employer and trade union; it involves the right to strike and collective bargaining. Criminal law deals with crimes and punishment, and civil law relates to disputes over contracts and property. The law of evidence is the rulebook about what can be admitted as evidence in a court case.

The practice of law is regulated by the law of the jurisdiction in which the lawyer practises, or by a professional body such as a bar association or law society. A lawyer obtains a distinct professional identity through specified legal procedures, and is usually required to have a certain amount of training and experience (e.g. a Bachelor of Laws or a Juris Doctor degree). Some countries have special legal professions that are reserved for members of certain ethnic groups.