What Is Law?


Law is a system of rules and procedures that people and societies use to regulate crime, business relationships and social interactions. This is a very complex and intricate field of study that encompasses many different disciplines.

Legal systems have many functions: they keep the peace, maintain the status quo, preserve individual rights, protect minorities against majorities, promote social justice and provide for orderly social change. Some legal systems are better suited to these purposes than others.

A person who studies or practices law is a lawyer. The study and practice of law involves the drafting of laws and the interpretation of existing laws. It also involves preparing and defending lawsuits and other legal claims.

Professionalism in law is governed by the rules set by either a government or independent regulating body such as a bar association, bar council or law society. Modern lawyers have a distinct professional identity by passing special exams, becoming admitted to the bar and achieving a specific degree in law (e.g. a Bachelor of Laws, a Bachelor of Civil Law or a Juris Doctor).

The law is a set of norms and corresponding legal principles that govern relationships between individuals, institutions and governments. These norms are formulated by people and governments, and enforced by courts of law.

Several theories of the function of law have been developed. These theories differ in what kinds of rights they recognize and how those rights are derived from certain legal duties.

Some of these theories emphasize the capacity of right-holders to claim or demand, while others concentrate on the ability of rights to exercise certain power over others. A third theory is based on the idea that rights are not just passive.

Hohfeld argued that there are four fundamental ways that a right can be recognized by law: claims, privileges, powers and immunities. The first two, claims and privileges, are “first-order” rights determining what the relevant parties may or may not do.

Second-order rights are those that relate to a particular norm, and determine whether the parties have the power or immunity to change that norm. The last, immunities, are those that prevent the parties from changing a particular norm.

A legal system that consists of just and reasonable duties, but without correlative rights owed to those who benefit from those duties is said to be a “duty system” (Feinberg 1970; 1980; 1992). Theorists such as MacCormick, MacPherson and Raz believe that this type of duty system fails to meet the basic requirement that it be designed to benefit people rather than merely serve some general purpose.

In addition to these three underlying models of the function of law, there are other, more abstract approaches that have been developed in recent years. Some of these include a moral philosophy of law, and the notion that laws should be created primarily for the welfare of the individuals who are regulated by them.

A strong rule of law is essential for a stable and prosperous society, and a good legal system can also contribute to economic growth and social progress. It enables citizens to enjoy their rights, ensures a fair and impartial application of the law, reduces corruption and helps establish the social contract between society and the state.