What Is Law?


Law is a system of rules that governs people’s actions in a particular society or government. It includes everything from defining who can own land to what kind of promises are enforceable in court. A person who studies law can become a lawyer, judge, or other leader in the legal system.

The most fundamental role of any society is to define and enforce the law. Without a functioning legal system, society would quickly devolve into chaos. The laws that govern us must be clear and unambiguous. They must protect people’s lives and property, prevent unauthorized discrimination, ensure that contracts are honored, and ensure fair treatment of all. In addition, a well-functioning legal system must be accessible to all.

While all societies have their own laws, most share a set of core principles that guide them. These core principles are called the “rules of law.” They can be found in many different places, from ancient texts to modern constitutions. In most cases, the rule of law is established by a democratically elected legislature that passes detailed statutes and regulations for the entire nation or state. Laws may also be imposed by the executive branch or the judiciary. In some countries, the legislative branch is made up of a senate and house of representatives, while others have a unicameral legislature (a single body with both a senate and a house).

Some laws are considered to be natural, or based on instinctive behaviors, such as the law of self-preservation or the law of gravity. Others are derived from a higher authority, such as God or the bible. There are a variety of schools of thought about how these laws should be established and applied, ranging from liberal individualism to socialism.

In most countries, laws are formulated by politicians and debated in the media. Once a political system establishes its basic political-legal framework, the law can evolve through a process of negotiation and compromise between political parties. Many times, the laws of a country are subject to change due to public pressure or the desire for new laws to address old problems.

To determine “what the law is” in a given situation involves several stages of research and analysis. The first step is to identify the facts of the case, including any statutory law that may apply. Next, one must locate the relevant law and cases and analyze them to discern the legal principles and analogies that will apply to the case at hand. The final stage is to integrate all of the lines drawn, reasoning used, and conclusions reached into a final decision or opinion about the matter at hand. This process is sometimes known as “reading the law” or “interpreting the law.”