What is Law?


Law is a system of rules that people or governments develop in order to deal with crimes, business agreements and social relationships. The term is also used to refer to the people who work in this field. For example, a lawyer is someone who studies and applies the laws of a country or region. There are two types of lawyers – transactional attorneys who draft contracts and litigators who represent clients in court proceedings. The latter are sometimes known as barristers or solicitors.

The precise definition of law has long been debated. The early enlightenment philosopher Jeremy Bentham argued that law consists of commands, backed by the threat of sanctions, from a sovereign to which citizens have a natural habit of obedience. This is sometimes referred to as the utilitarian theory of law. Others, such as the French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, argued that law reflects innate moral and unchanging laws of nature.

The law can be written by group legislatures, resulting in statutes; by the executive through decrees and regulations; or established through judicial decisions, called precedent in common law jurisdictions. In some countries, such as Japan, the legal tradition combines secular and religious influences. In addition, religious laws can be based on scriptures like the Jewish Halakha and Islamic Sharia or on further human elaboration involving interpretation, Qiyas (reasoning by analogy), Ijma and consensus. Similarly, cultural traditions can provide legal principles. For example, in many cultures it is illegal to make obscene or threatening phone calls.