What Is The Law?


The law is a set of rules that govern human behaviour and society. It can be enforced by a group legislature, resulting in laws called statutes; by the executive, resulting in decrees and regulations; or created by judges through legal precedent, in common law jurisdictions. In addition, private individuals may create legally binding contracts that are considered to be enforceable by the courts.

There are many different kinds of law: administrative, criminal, civil, economic, environmental, family, property, procedural and tax. These are all governed by the constitution of a country or state and can be amended by legislative bodies or court decisions. The main branch of government that makes laws is the legislature. The legislative body is usually referred to as the House of Representatives or Senate, but in some countries it may be a constitutional assembly or unicameral parliament.

The most commonly recognised areas of law are criminal, commercial, labour and property. Crimes and civil law govern the rights and duties of citizens and citizens’ obligations towards one another, including contracts, responsibilities in business and consumer protection. Criminal law also covers issues of crime prevention, investigation and prosecution. Property law governs the ownership and possession of land, movable goods and intellectual property. Its most complex area is that of real property, also known as land law, which deals with titles, mortgages, leases and easements. Personal property, movable goods like computers and jewellery, is covered by a variety of statutory systems governing rental agreements, licences, covenants and registration of title.

Economic and environmental laws are primarily concerned with ensuring that businesses and consumers act responsibly, especially regarding the environment. This is often achieved through regulation, which can include issues such as emissions standards, licensing requirements, waste management and the provision of public utilities like water, electricity and gas. Regulation can also include issues of social responsibility, such as a requirement for companies to set aside funds for the prevention of environmental disasters or the payment of compensation to victims in the event of an environmental catastrophe.

Other areas of law include labour and immigration, which cover employment issues, family law, divorce proceedings and the acquisition or loss of citizenship. Competition law, originating from anti-cartel and restraint of trade legislation, is concerned with controlling businesses that seek to control markets through price fixing or dominance. Consumer laws govern fairness in contracts, and the availability of products and services that are suitable for the intended market. This might include the need for a minimum wage or the provision of specific products, such as baby milk or maternity leave. Maritime and aviation law are other examples of specialised fields of law. The law is also studied at higher levels in universities, with degrees available in law and legal studies. These courses often involve studying the history of the law, and analysing a range of legal cases. The study of law can lead to a career in the legal profession, which encompasses a wide range of careers from police officers to judges and lawyers.