What Is Law?

Law is the body of rules created and enforced by a state, that governs the behavior of its people. It is a system of rules that ensures a peaceful society by regulating the relationship between people in terms of property, contract and criminal justice. Law consists of many different disciplines and areas of practice, including contract, employment, property and family law, as well as more general fields such as constitutional, international, criminal, evidence, bankruptcy, and appellate procedure.

Law informs our daily lives in many ways, from contract and property law to banking regulation and the laws of supply and demand that dictate prices in a market. The field also encompasses areas such as environmental, health and safety, taxation and labour law.

The discipline has many different schools of thought and approaches to legal theory. Hans Kelsen, for example, proposed a “pure theory of law,” which is descriptive rather than prescriptive and defines laws as the result of human actions. Another approach to law, developed by Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., is based on probability. This explains how a law can emerge from a series of observations and events that are subject to random variation.

Other areas of law include the protections provided by torts and the laws that regulate contracts, statutory interpretation, administrative law, and evidence law. Procedural law concerns how courts conduct a case, including arraignment, pretrial proceedings, and trials. Evidence law defines what materials can be considered in a court case. Appeals are requests made after a trial for another court to decide whether the original trial was conducted correctly.