What Is Law?


Law is the system of rules that governs human relationships and actions. It shapes politics, economics, history and society in various ways and serves as a mediator of relations between people. The precise nature of law is a matter of longstanding debate. Some view it as an art, while others regard it as a science.

Laws are created and enforced by social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior. The term law is often used to refer to the legal system as a whole, including civil and criminal justice; however, it can also be used to describe individual statutes or court decisions.

The concept of law is central to most modern societies and is considered by many to be an essential part of the democratic process. Law can be viewed as the set of principles that governs human interactions and provides a framework for public order, social stability and personal liberty. Law is also used to define and limit the role of government in the private sector, and to regulate business practices and protect consumer rights.

Legal scholars distinguish between two broad categories of law: (a) statutory law, which is written by legislatures and codified by courts; and common law, which is judge-made precedent. Historically, there has been some overlap between these categories; for example, Roman law and Greek philosophy both had significant influence on medieval and early modern European legal systems.

A third category of law is religious law, which consists of the commandments and traditions of the major religions. While religious law has shaped some political and economic systems, it is not generally considered to be binding in secular matters.

Despite the wide variety of laws and their sources, many aspects of law are universal. For example, the principles of due process and equal protection under the law are fundamental to all jurisdictions. Other elements include the concept of a public forum and the requirement for impartiality in proceedings. The rule that parties must be represented by counsel is an important element of the adversarial system in civil and criminal cases.

The judicial branch of the government is responsible for the creation and enforcement of law. It is also the body that adjudicates disputes between citizens and private entities and interprets a nation’s constitution. The most well-known branch of the judiciary is the United States Supreme Court.

A law review article is a detailed research paper that analyzes and evaluates current or proposed legislation. These articles tend to be more technical than general newspaper or magazine pieces, and may take a position on controversial changes in the law. They can be found in specialized journals and periodicals or on the internet. A law review article may be written by an academic or by a practicing lawyer. An excellent source of information on law is the American Journal of Law and Medicine. The author of an outstanding law review article can be published in that publication, receiving recognition and a prestigious honor.