What Is Law?


Law is a body of rules created and enforced by social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior. The precise definition of law is a matter of debate and is considered to be an important subject for academic inquiry, including philosophy, sociology, history, economics and political science. The term is also used to refer to the professions that involve advising people about the law, representing them in court or administering decisions and punishments.

The four main purposes of law are establishing standards, maintaining order, resolving disputes and protecting liberties and rights. For example, criminal law deals with conduct deemed harmful to society and can result in imprisonment or fines. Civil law, on the other hand, addresses lawsuits between individuals. Other examples include space law, tax law and banking and financial regulation.

In countries with a common law system, laws are primarily determined by judges’ decisions in cases that are heard by the courts. This is known as the doctrine of stare decisis. In contrast, other countries have civil law systems in which laws are written by a legislative process and are binding on lower courts.

Creating laws is a lengthy process. First, a representative will sponsor a bill. Then it will be assigned to a committee for study and, if released, may be debated and voted on. Once the bill passes in the House of Representatives, it moves to the Senate where it undergoes similar processes. Eventually, the final law will be worked out by a conference committee made up of members of both the House and Senate.