What Is Law?


Law is the system of rules that a country or community recognizes as regulating its citizens’ behaviour. These laws are made by governments or by private individuals and are enforced by the courts.

The precise definition of law is a matter of considerable debate, but it may be described as a science or an art. Legal systems are based on written or unwritten constitutions, and they may incorporate social norms.

Typically, legal rights reflect a commitment to a certain ideal of morality or justice. The concept of natural law is a popular theory that argues that moral rights are immutable and unchanging. It is a tradition that emerged in ancient Greek philosophy and continued in the modern West through the writings of Thomas Aquinas.

Legal rights often imply that an individual or group has the right to a specified thing, such as a house or land. They can also imply that an individual or group has the duty not to do something, such as commit a crime or break the law.

There are a variety of ways that law is created and enforced, including through statutes, decrees and regulations, and by judges enforcing precedent. Statutes are sometimes drafted by committees appointed by government agencies, and other times they are produced after studies covering periods of a year or more.

Laws can be created by the government, or they can be made by individuals and groups through contracts, or by the creation of arbitration agreements. The latter are a method of alternative dispute resolution that is widely used.

A lawyer is a person who advises people about their rights and responsibilities or represents them in court, usually to win money or other things. Generally, lawyers are called to the bar after passing a qualification exam and becoming part of the profession through the regulated procedures of professional bodies such as the bar association or law society.

These practitioners have a distinct professional identity that enables them to distinguish themselves from others who are not in the profession. This is achieved through a special qualification, requiring a law degree (such as a Bachelor of Laws or a Juris Doctor), and legal forms of appointment.

For example, in the United States, the President or his representatives often appoint commissions and committees to draft bills, and these are generally presented before Congress for approval. These bills are then enacted into law by the President or his representatives, often with the approval of a majority of the House and Senate.

In Hohfeldian theory, there are two types of normative positions: claims and privileges, which determine what the right-holder may or may not do; and powers and immunities, which determine what a right-object can or cannot do. Claims and privileges are first-order norms, while powers and immunities are second-order norms.

The law regulates the activities of people, institutions, businesses and organisations in a number of fields, including criminal, tax, social security, family, employment, property, medical and maritime law, to name but a few. Moreover, there are numerous debates within this discipline about the nature and extent of human rights.

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