What Is Law?


A body of rules that regulates a society or community and is enforced by a controlling authority through penalties. The law may govern a wide range of issues, from private disputes and property rights to social justice and military affairs. Law varies considerably across cultures, with some nations having more effective legal systems than others. A country’s law may also reflect its values, culture and traditions.

Some countries use a system of law that derives from decisions of judges on specific cases, rather than from statutes (or legislative acts). This is called common law, and its development has been highly influential in the United States and in many European countries. In this system, the judgments of judges on a particular case provide guidance for judges in future cases that come before them. The judge’s reasoning for the decision is also important, as it helps establish precedents in the law.

Other countries have a legal system that relies on codes of laws that outline the rules judges must follow when they make a decision. This is called civil law, and its development has been much slower than common law. In some countries, the laws have been carved in stone, as with the Code of Hammurabi from ancient Babylonia.

The main purpose of a nation’s law is to protect the rights and freedoms of its citizens. It can help to keep the peace, maintain the status quo, protect minorities against majorities and preserve individual rights. It can also prevent or allow for peaceful social change and enforce the limits of a state’s power. The success of a legal system often depends on the quality of the government that makes and enforces it.

A legal system can be made up of a combination of statutory law, administrative law and the common law. Statutory law is created by the legislature of a country or region, and it can cover a broad range of topics, from the rules for driving to the rights of tenants. Administrative law, on the other hand, is the set of laws that govern how a particular area or industry works. It can be created by a government agency or by a private group of people.

People’s ideas of what the law should be are often influenced by their culture and family upbringing. They can also be based on religious beliefs and books, such as the Jewish Halakha or the Islamic Sharia. Lawyers, jurists and attorneys are professionals who study and argue the laws of a country. They usually have several responsibilities, including reviewing contracts and representing clients in court. Other duties may include writing articles about upcoming legislation and trends in the law. They are sometimes referred to as experts or specialists. A good lawyer can communicate the law clearly and effectively, making it understandable to lay people. They should also be willing to work hard and have the ability to be creative. They should be able to inspire and motivate their peers.