What is Law?

Law is a system of rules created and enforced through social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior. Its precise definition has long been a subject of debate, and it has been variously described as an art, science, or practice. Law shapes politics, economics, history, and society in many different ways, and serves as a mediator of relations between people. The creation of law may be influenced by religion, such as the Jewish Halakha and Islamic Shari’a, or secular philosophies such as utilitarianism, naturalism, or libertarianism. Law may be enacted by a legislature through statutes, by the executive through decrees and regulations, or by judges through precedent in common law jurisdictions. Private individuals can also create legally binding contracts, and in some cases ad hoc groups may create legal systems through consensus or informal procedures.

There are a number of different branches of law, each with its own specialisms. In general, a branch of law deals with the way in which government or other entities regulate specific areas of life or specific aspects of business, such as taxation, labour law, banking laws, and consumer protection laws. Other areas of law include criminal and civil procedure, which involve the rules that a court must follow as it conducts a trial or hearing, and evidence law, which deals with which materials are admissible in court for a case to be built.

In addition to these specific branches of law, there is a body of law that is more general in its application, such as constitutional law, administrative law, and international law. Constitutional law concerns the way in which a country is governed, administrative law addresses the way in which a government or other entity manages its operations, and international law is concerned with the rules and principles that govern international relationships and conflicts of interest.

A notable feature of law is that, unlike most other scientific or empirical disciplines, it has a normative as well as descriptive nature. That is, it tells people how they should behave, what they should require from others, and what they must or should not expect from other people.

The discipline of law is complex and diverse, and is dominated by the professions that advise people about the law, represent them in court, or judge criminals or other citizens. These professionals are known as lawyers, barristers (often called silk), or judges. Other related subjects that are sometimes studied include jurisprudence, political science, and the philosophy of law.