What Is Law?

Law is a set of rules created and enforced by social or governmental institutions to regulate behaviour, with its precise definition being a matter of longstanding debate. It serves four main purposes: establishing standards, maintaining order, resolving disputes and protecting liberties and rights.

The study of law is a central aspect of several academic disciplines, including philosophy, sociology and economic analysis. It provides a rich source of material for research into legal history, philosophy, theory and social justice, as well as providing an important tool for the practice of government, business, education and public service.

Modern law has many different fields, covering everything from family and property issues to immigration, criminal justice and taxation. Tort law, for example, allows compensation if someone suffers an injury or loss, while land and property laws are concerned with the ownership of real estate (a right in rem), movable objects (a right in personam) and the statutory systems that govern their registration. Commercial law, banking and financial regulation, intellectual property law, trusts and company law are also areas of law.

A career in law is becoming increasingly popular for young people, but it requires a number of specific skills. Lawyers are regulated by law societies and bar associations and must meet certain academic requirements to qualify for practising law (e.g. a law degree, successful completion of a professional training course or being admitted to the bar). Other professions involved in the administration of law include probation officers (who screen applicants for pretrial release and monitor convicted offenders released on supervision), private prosecutors (who try cases on behalf of the state) and public defenders (who represent defendants who can’t afford their own lawyers). They must also keep meticulous records of all proceedings.