What is Law?


Law is a set of rules that a place or authority makes to regulate behavior. Its precise definition is a matter of ongoing debate.

Law has many different purposes, including keeping the peace, preserving rights and property, maintaining social stability and enabling orderly social change. Some legal systems serve these goals more effectively than others. For example, a nation that is ruled by an authoritarian government may keep the peace, maintain the status quo and protect minorities from majorities, but it might also oppress political opponents or suppress dissent.

The practice of law encompasses a broad range of fields, from family and property law to criminal and employment law. Some areas of law are comparatively simple, such as contract law, which regulates agreements that exchange goods or services. Other areas of law are considerably more complex, such as criminal or international law.

Modern legal systems are typically based on one of two traditions: common law or civil law. Countries that follow the former tradition have a legal system that derives from England, while those that follow the latter use the French Civil Code. Other systems exist, such as Islamic law and the laws of Eastern Asia, but these are less well-known outside their countries of origin.

The study of law involves the research and analysis of court decisions, statutes, codes, principles, analogies and statements by courts and other sources to determine “what the law is” in a particular situation. The resulting information is used to help ensure that justice is served.

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