What Is Law?


Law is the set of rules a society sets up to ensure that people are treated fairly and that there are consequences when they break the rules. It is a central part of any civilized society and there are many different kinds of laws, covering everything from criminal, labour and property law to the legal system itself. There is also international law, which deals with the way that different countries treat each other.

The precise nature of law is a subject of debate. Some think that it is a social construct, while others view it as an expression of human desires and aspirations. In any case, the four principal functions of law are establishing standards, maintaining order, resolving disputes and protecting liberties and rights.

A large number of people work in the field of law, both within governments and privately. Lawyers are professionals who specialise in particular areas of law and have trained for years to become specialists in their fields. They are usually required to follow certain legal procedures (such as passing a bar exam) and must be approved by a regulatory body to practice law.

There are a number of theories of law. Hans Kelsen proposed the ‘pure theory of law’, which states that the law is a normative science and that it defines rules that individuals must abide by. Roscoe Pound’s definition of law was more complicated, stating that it is social control, coercive in nature and based on tradition and custom.

Laws can be made by a group legislature, resulting in statutes; by executive decrees and regulations; or established by judges through precedent (in common law jurisdictions). The study of law is known as jurisprudence and the profession is called law. It is a vast area of knowledge and there are many different specialisms, including: