Understanding the Basics of Law


Law is a set of rules that govern behavior and are enforceable by government and social institutions. The exact definition of law is still a matter of controversy, but it has often been described as a science or the “art of justice”. Whatever its exact definition, it is a system of rules governing the conduct of humans.

Rule of Law

The idea of a Rule of Law envisages a society where laws are a stable and known public good. This means that laws should be made public and promulgated well in advance of individual responsibility. Rule of Law also means laws should be proactive rather than reactive.


Legality is one of the core principles of the rule of law. Its purpose is to protect people from bad behavior and to provide basic freedoms. These freedoms are rooted in the social contract theory of government. They include the right to own property, the right to associate with others, and a minimum standard of living.

Common law

Common law is a system of legal reasoning that has evolved over centuries. Courts use case-based reasoning to arrive at rulings that are in the best interests of society. This system has historically disadvantaged some groups and marginalized others. In the 19th century, feminists in England were faced with a number of challenges due to the common law, which held that fathers were entitled to custody of children if a couple divorced. This system often left women trapped in a marriage.

Property law

Property law is the body of law that governs the ownership of real and personal property. It refers to legal claims to resources and includes intellectual property.

Environmental law

Environmental law is an important tool for managing pollution and protecting the environment. It may include rules of administrative procedure or be subject to judicial review.

Contract law

Contract law is the body of law that governs private agreements between two parties. When parties enter into a contract, they become legally bound to exchange valuable benefits. This makes agreements enforceable, and when a party fails to perform its obligations under a contract, it may seek money damages or specific performance. While this monograph is not intended to be comprehensive, it does provide a good overview of the basics of contract law.