What Is Law?


Law is the system of rules that regulates behaviour and is enforced by a controlling authority, such as a nation or an organisation. It serves many purposes, including establishing standards, maintaining order, resolving disputes, and protecting liberties and rights. Laws may be made by a legislature, resulting in statutes; by an executive through decrees and regulations; or by judges through decisions that are compiled into case law. In the United States, a large body of federal law exists alongside state laws.

Most countries employ either a common law or civil law system. Common law is based on judge-made decisions, while civil law uses codes that set out the rules judges must follow to make their decisions. In both systems, law is enforceable by courts of appeals up to a supreme court with the power to remove laws that are unconstitutional.

The types of law vary by country, but some include criminal, constitutional and administrative law. Criminal law deals with the government’s power to prevent people from breaking laws and punish them for doing so. Constitutional law focuses on the meaning of a constitution, including how different branches of the government should interact with one another.

Other kinds of law include trust, property and labour laws. Trust law covers the rules about how money is invested, and involves things like regulating pension funds. Property laws involve the ownership of land and personal possessions, such as computers and cars, with some involving the complexities of land registration systems. Then there is intellectual property, company and trademark laws. Finally, tort law helps people claim compensation (repayment) when they are hurt by someone else’s actions.