What Is Law?

Law is the set of rules governing a society. The laws determine what may or may not happen, and they control how people act. The term is also used to refer to the legal system, which encompasses the professions that deal with advising people about the law and representing them in court. The legal system is becoming an increasingly popular career choice for young people.

The main purpose of the law is to establish standards, maintain order, redress disputes and protect rights and liberties. It also serves to guide people and provide them with a framework for making decisions. Law has many different dimensions, and the study of law is a wide-ranging subject that covers areas such as criminology, public policy, ethics and philosophy.

A number of philosophers have offered definitions of the law. One of the earliest was Hans Kelsen, who created a theory called ‘pure law’. This theory states that law is a normative science that attempts to explain what must occur. Other theories have focused on how the law affects people’s actions. The legal philosophy of Roscoe Pound, for example, asserts that the law is coercive by nature.

There are many different types of laws, which vary according to culture and history. In general, however, laws exist to govern the relationship between individuals and between individuals and their governments. These laws may include contracts, property, criminal, tort and administrative laws.

Some laws are based on custom, while others have been created through legislative statutes or case law. In some legal systems, such as those of the United States, the law is largely a written document that sets out detailed rules for particular situations. In other systems, such as the civil law of continental Europe, judicial decisions are binding on lower courts. In some legal systems, such as the Jewish Halakha and Islamic Sharia, the law is unwritten, but based on religious precepts and further human elaboration through interpretation and jurisprudence.

Whether the law is written or unwritten, it must be clear enough for people to understand and follow. In addition, it must be stable, so that people can plan their affairs with confidence and know what the consequences of their actions will be. This is known as the Rule of Law and it is intended to protect against anarchy or a Hobbesian war of all against all. It also ensures that at least some types of official arbitrariness are prevented. In addition, the law must ensure that the most serious crimes are punishable by the highest possible punishments. This is the concept of natural justice.