The Basics of Law
Law is a body of rules created and enforced by social or governmental institutions to regulate human behavior. The precise nature of the laws varies from society to society. In general, however, a legal system has four principal functions: establishing standards; maintaining order; resolving disputes; and protecting liberties and rights.
The exact role of the law in any society depends on the balance of power among different individuals and groups. The people or groups with the military, political and economic muscle often command the power to make and enforce laws. However, each year there are a number of revolts against existing political-legal authority.
In addition to the fundamentals of a country’s legal systems, there is much debate over the proper scope of the law. Some scholars define law in terms of the set of enforceable rules that a particular community recognizes as binding, while others view it more broadly, encompassing all aspects of people’s lives and interactions.
Regardless of how one defines the scope of the law, most scholars agree that there are a set of common core principles that all legal systems must embody. These include the rule of law, the separation of powers, due process and the right to a fair trial.
Because the law is so central to the functioning of most societies, it has been extensively studied and analyzed. The field of Law encompasses a wide variety of subjects, from criminal and administrative law to property and international law.
The discipline is primarily a practical and applied endeavor, with the practice of law an increasingly attractive career choice for young lawyers. A large portion of the practice of law involves advising and representing clients in civil litigation, but other areas such as taxation and estate planning also fall within the realm of the legal profession.
Law is a vast and complex topic, and the term has numerous synonyms. The most widely used words for “law” are probably Greek nomos and its variants (such as nómos); French droit, Spanish derecho, and German Recht; all of which translate into English as “right,” and the Latin lex, or “law,” and its many daughter languages.
Some of the most important functions of the law are to protect people’s rights and provide them with a safe and peaceful environment. The legal system also helps ensure that all citizens are treated equally and that the police and government officials carry out their duties according to the law.
There are many different types of law, which vary depending on the needs and interests of a society. Contract law, for example, establishes people’s rights and obligations when they exchange goods or services; property law defines the ownership and rights of tangible property, such as land and buildings; and tort law provides compensation when someone is harmed by another’s conduct, such as in an automobile accident or defamation of character. The law also establishes punishments for crimes.