What Is Law?


The law shapes politics, economics, history and society in many ways. It establishes standards and maintains order, resolves disputes, and protects liberties and rights. Law also serves a range of other purposes, including controlling commerce and regulating social conduct. In addition, it provides an outlet for human ambition, e.g., in achieving justice or a fair trial.

The term “law” is used to denote any set of rules that are recognized by a community as binding. These may be written or oral, and may or may not be enforced. For example, an individual might be able to sue another for breach of contract or fraud. The law might also govern the activities of a government or an organization. It might regulate the use of property, control pollution, or oversee sports competitions.

Among the most widely adopted forms of law are the civil and common laws. The former are found on all continents and cover about 60% of the world’s population. They are based on the concepts and categories of Roman law, and sometimes on canon law, with a varying degree of influence from local custom and culture. Common law systems are based on judge-made precedent, and the doctrine of stare decisis.

Law is not limited to the written or oral word, as it can be shaped by a person’s interpretation of a situation and his or her own ideas and beliefs. The law is shaped by the intersection of the individual’s narrative with a codified community narrative of equality and justice.

The law can be broken down into a number of subjects, though the subjects tend to intertwine and overlap. For example, labour law encompasses the tripartite industrial relationship of worker, employer and trade union, as well as a person’s right to a minimum wage. The law governing the taxation of goods and services can be called tax law. It consists of regulations on value added tax and corporate taxes, as well as rules about the best practices of banks.

A lawyer is someone who practices law, and has a distinct professional identity and career path. He or she has typically passed a bar exam, and is governed by the law of his or her jurisdiction. The title “Esquire” is used to signify a barrister of greater dignity, while the title Doctor of Law indicates that the person has obtained a PhD in Law.

Legal topics can be highly technical, and articles will often incorporate footnotes that elaborate on complex legislation. However, the language can also be more general and accessible, such as when an article critiques recent legislative changes. See Law, the profession of for more details on the career path and training required to be a lawyer. The law varies around the world, with some countries having stricter requirements than others. Law is a multi-disciplinary subject that has numerous links to other areas of study and practice, such as philosophy, religion and social science.