What Is Law?

Law is a set of social or governmental rules that form a framework to ensure a peaceful society and protect people’s liberties. Its precise definition is a topic of longstanding debate. It serves four main purposes: establishing standards, maintaining order, resolving disputes, and protecting rights and freedoms. Laws are enforced by the government and can be broken or breached, resulting in sanctions.

Different laws, or legal systems, vary significantly, and there are many professions that focus on advising clients about the law, representing them in court, or giving decisions and punishments. Those who study and work in this field are called lawyers or jurists, and they may be called upon to help in the process of interpreting and applying the law in particular circumstances.

This article uses the law defined by John Austin: “law is the aggregate of a system of rules that are made by men as politically superior or sovereign over men as political subjects.”

Laws are not fixed and are continually evolving, which means that to know what the law will be in a given circumstance, it is necessary to go through several stages of research and analysis. One must first ascertain the facts of the case, then look at the relevant statutes and previous cases. In common law jurisdictions, it is important to consider the rationales and policies of judges in deciding how to apply the law, as these may carry more weight than the outcome of the case itself.