Law is the set of rules that a particular country or community recognizes as regulating its members’ behaviour and enforcing justice. It also covers the professions that advise people about laws, represent them in courts or make decisions and punishments under them.
The precise nature of law differs from nation to nation, but its principal purposes are establishing standards, maintaining order, resolving disputes and protecting liberties and rights. As such, it is a complex subject that can be studied in many different ways and that is at the heart of much political philosophy, economic analysis and sociology.
Most people understand that there are laws to prevent them from stealing, committing murder and other serious crimes. But there are more subtle nuances to this area of study. A ‘law’ can be a social norm that has been agreed upon by society, a tradition or the custom of a group. It can also be a rule established by a government or other authority that has been adopted and enforced through an authorised body such as a court, corporation or trade union.
An important branch of the law is the law of property, which governs how a person owns and manages their home or other real estate and the way they pass it on to their heirs. Another area of the law is taxation and financial regulation, which relates to what a person must pay for goods and services and how that money is used. It can also be about the regulation of industries such as water, energy, gas and telecommunications.
The law can also include a person’s responsibilities, duties and obligations to their employer or other citizens and groups. For example, labour law encompasses the tripartite relationship between worker, employer and trade union and the rules that govern their industrial relations. It can also cover the rights of a person in a legal dispute and the rules that courts must follow as they conduct trials and appeals. It can also involve the rules about what evidence is admissible in court for a case. The law can also be a matter of morality, with religious or philosophical traditions providing the basis for a code of ethics and a set of values that a person is expected to live by. These can be as varied as the Jewish halakha, Islamic Sharia and the Christian canon. The underlying assumptions of these systems vary greatly. They all have their own ways of interpreting and extending law through the use of qiyas (reasoning by analogy), ijma (consensus) and precedent.