What is Law?


Law is the system of rules that a government, society or organisation develops in order to deal with crime, business agreements and social relationships. The term also means the set of rules that a group or individual has a right to expect from other members of their community, or that they can demand from their governments, in return for their tax contributions. The principal functions of the law are setting standards, maintaining order, resolving disputes and protecting liberties and rights.

The law is the subject of many different academic disciplines, including legal history, philosophy, economic analysis and sociology. It is a source of considerable controversy, as reflected in many debates on issues such as the role of women in law, whether judges should be above politics, or how to make laws that prevent murder.

The major subjects of law are criminal, civil and administrative law. Criminal law concerns the punishment of citizens who break certain societal rules, while civil law deals with lawsuits between individuals or organisations. Administrative law deals with the ways in which the courts and other bodies must work, such as deciding what materials are admissible for a case.

There are many sub-areas of the law, though these sometimes overlap and include areas such as labour, family and commercial law. Contract law includes the rules of trade and commerce, which cover everything from a taxi ride to a derivatives contract. Property law covers people’s rights and duties toward tangible assets, from a ‘right in rem’ for land to ‘personal property’ such as computers and jewellery.