What is Law?


Law is a system of rules that a society or government develops to deal with issues such as crime and business agreements. The term can also be used to describe the people who work in this field, such as lawyers and judges.

The precise nature of the law is a matter of debate, but it can be generally described as a body of rules created and enforced by social or governmental institutions to regulate human behaviour and to resolve disputes between individuals or groups. It is an area of study that crosses many academic disciplines, including history, philosophy, ethics and economic analysis.

In the modern world, there are two basic types of laws: public law and private law. Public law is made by government bodies and applies to everyone in the country, whereas private law is created by individuals or businesses and only applies to those parties.

Despite these broad categories, there are numerous sub-topics within law, such as criminal law, civil law and administrative law. Criminal law addresses conduct that is deemed harmful to the community, and can include crimes such as murder, robbery, fraud and treason. Civil law addresses lawsuits between individuals or between organizations, and can include cases such as breach of contract and intellectual property rights.

It is difficult to make generalizations about the law because it has a normative character, meaning that it prescribes how people should behave, in contrast to facts which are descriptive (such as the strength of gravity between an apple and the Earth) or causal (such as the laws of supply and demand in economics). This makes it very different from empirical sciences, where there is a possibility of empirical proof, and is fully dependent on humans and their mental operations.

There are also many specialized terms within the law, such as evidence law, administrative law and tort law. There is also a wide range of legal processes and procedures, such as discovery (the examination of evidence by lawyers before trial) and en banc, where a judge or court sits with the full bench rather than the usual number of judges (usually three). Other terms that are often used in connection with law include: