Understanding the Basics of Law


A legal system consists of laws, rules and guidelines that regulate behavior, protect individuals and society. A law can be a statute, a rule or even a precedent — a decision by a higher court binding lower courts in similar cases.

The purpose of a law may be to keep peace, maintain the status quo, preserve individual rights, protect minorities against majorities or promote social justice. Some legal systems are based on the principle that the power of a state rests with its people, while others are concentrated in the hands of a ruling elite (e.g., authoritarian states).

From a methodological point of view, law is complex. Unlike normative statements in empirical sciences like biology or economics, or in social science such as sociology or political economy, there is no way to verify whether a normative statement contained within a law was actually made by the legislator.

The complexity of law also derives from the fact that the law reflects and influences the laws of other countries, which are sometimes different from those of a country in question. This is why it is important to study international law as a separate discipline. Legal practitioners need to understand the context in which they work. They should be aware of the differences in the legal cultures and the historical, cultural and social roots of legal systems around the world. This knowledge will help them serve the interests of their clients, as well as their own professional development and career advancement.