What Is Law?


Law is the system of rules that a particular country or community recognizes as regulating the actions of its members. The precise definition of law varies according to the context and culture, but it usually encompasses concepts such as property rights, freedom from arbitrary control by government and basic human rights. Law is studied and practiced by lawyers, judges, and other governmental officials.

The study of law involves a wide range of topics, including the relationship between a society’s laws and its social structure, the history of legal systems, and the principles that govern the process of judging cases and making decisions. In addition to its role in establishing and enforcing civil and criminal procedures, the law also shapes politics, economics, and history.

Modern law is often viewed as an art as well as a science. The practice of law itself is typically regulated by a government or independent governing body, such as a bar association or law society. Modern lawyers are trained by completing a legal education, earning a degree such as a Bachelor of Laws or a Juris Doctor degree, and then taking professional licensing exams.

Whether laws are made by collective legislatures, resulting in statutes, or through the executive branch through decrees and regulations, or established by judges in common law legal systems through precedent (stare decisis), they all shape society. These laws govern many aspects of life, from the private lives of individuals to the global governance of nations.

In general, a law is binding upon all individuals in the jurisdiction where it is implemented. It may also be enforceable through international treaties that have been deposited with the United Nations or other bodies.

In most democratic countries, the law is interpreted by a judicial branch of government. In the United States, this includes the Supreme Court and other courts of appeals. A judge is an officer of the court who decides lawsuits brought before it. When a judge issues a ruling, the decision becomes law and is binding on other judges in similar situations. In some cases, judges will choose to hear arguments from all parties to a case before making their decision, a practice called en banc. This is an abbreviation of “in the full bench.” Generally, it takes a larger number of judges to convene for this purpose than just a quorum.