What Is Law?

Law is a system of rules that societies or governments develop to deal with crime, business agreements and social relationships. It can also be used to refer to any profession that deals with legal action, giving advice about the law or representing people in court.

Law aims to serve four principal purposes: it sets standards, maintains order, resolves disputes and protects liberties and rights. Law varies from nation to nation, however, as different political systems serve the law differently. For example, an authoritarian regime may keep the peace and preserve the status quo but it may also oppress minorities and limit political opponents.

A legal system must be clear, publiclyized and stable. It should be accessible to citizens and jurists and allow them to interpret it creatively and evolve with social change. It must provide adequate resources and be led by competent, ethical and independent representatives and neutrals who reflect the makeup of communities they serve.

The law is an area of study that is broad and overlapping. It encompasses many subjects, but three categories are presented here for convenience (though they intertwine and overlap). Civil law involves the legal rights of individuals; criminal law covers crimes and their punishment; and administrative law deals with public services and utilities such as energy, water and telecommunications that are managed by private companies. In addition, there is a law of nations and natural jurisprudence, which derives much of its force and dignity from the same principles of right reason and views of human nature and man’s constitution as those from which the science of morality is deduced.