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What Is Law?


Law is a system of rules created and enforced by social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior and maintain order. Its precise meaning and significance has been a subject of long-standing debate. The study of law is referred to as jurisprudence, and the people who practice it are lawyers. The law governs a wide range of subjects from crime and business agreements to the behaviour of politicians and judges.

The law consists of any set of principles or regulations that are enforceable by society, including customary and statutory laws. It also includes rules devised by man which he deems to be in the best interests of his society, and laws based on religious precepts, such as Jewish Halakha and Islamic Shari’a.

While the underlying principles of law are universal, its application varies greatly from country to country. For example, there are differences in the amount of freedom granted to citizens and in the nature and extent of judicial oversight. In the United States, for instance, the federal court system has more power than state courts. The law also reflects the cultural and historical influences of its society.

Some laws are based on natural and innate human behaviours, such as the need for food, water, shelter, and safety. Others are derived from religious texts, such as the Jewish Talmud and the Islamic Hadith, and are based on concepts such as qiyas (reasoning by analogy) and ijma (consensus). In many cases, the resulting laws require further human elaboration, through interpretation, judging, and precedent.

The practice of law is a complex and demanding profession, requiring a high level of education and training. Lawyers are often regulated by the state or an independent governing body, and must meet a specified number of academic qualifications (for example, a law degree). Many jurisdictions have legal aid services for low-income people.

Other specialized areas of law include labour law, which covers the legal rights and duties of workers and employers, including collective bargaining, and criminal law, which deals with the procedures for investigating and prosecuting crimes. Civil procedure law covers the rules for trial and appeals, while evidence law defines which materials are admissible in court.

Some areas of law have wider applications, such as administrative law, which encompasses the rules that govern public administration and government activities. The law also contains a variety of sub-disciplines, such as agency law, air law, bankruptcy, commercial transaction, criminology, family law, property law, and torts. The law is also important in other disciplines, such as political science and philosophy, and has been regarded as an object of study for centuries. The precise meaning and significance of the law has been a matter of ongoing debate, and the field of law is frequently viewed as an art as well as a science. It is considered to be the foundation of modern democracy, and is an integral part of any society. It is a source of great intellectual interest, and a wide variety of books on the subject have been published.