What Is Law?

Law is the set of rules governing society that are enforced by state institutions. It has a number of purposes: it establishes standards, maintains order, resolves disputes and protects people’s liberties and rights. Law is an important area of study and there are many careers in the field, including being a lawyer (or barrister) or judge.

Law covers a broad area of human activity, from the individual to the international level. It is made up of a complex web of interrelated activities and systems. The laws of a country vary depending on the culture and history of the society, which can have an effect on their effectiveness. There are some common features of all legal systems that are essential to their operation:

Whether a country has civil or common law, a judiciary (which decides cases) and a constitutional system which outlines the roles and powers of different branches of government. The type of law a country has may also be determined by its history or connections with other countries, for example the British empire brought with it both common and civil law.

The study of Law encompasses a wide variety of topics, from criminal and labour law to international and family law. It includes an understanding of the constitution and rights of citizens, the rules governing immigration and nationality law, the principles that guide the interpretation of evidence and the procedures for trial and appeals.

One of the main areas of debate in law involves the relationship between morality and law. This is reflected in the different views of law put forward by philosophers such as Bentham and John Austin. Bentham’s utilitarian approach to law defines it as “commands, backed by the threat of sanctions from a sovereign, to which men have a habit of obedience.” In contrast to this, natural lawyers such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau argue that laws reflect innate human values and are unchanging.

In practical terms, the role of law is to ensure that people have an opportunity to challenge decisions made by government agencies and courts. This process is called judicial review, and it is a vital part of a functioning democracy. The role of the judiciary is to interpret laws based on their true meaning, which can involve a complicated analysis of their impact on society.

Law also encompasses the activities of the police and the military, which enforce the law and protect society against organised crime, terrorism and war. It is a fascinating subject which has many careers – the profession of lawyer or barrister, for example, is often considered to be a prestigious one. Other career options include becoming a magistrate, a forensic scientist or an expert witness. There are even debates about the need to increase diversity in the judging profession or whether it is appropriate for judges to use their own sense of justice and morality in deciding cases.