What is Law?


Law is a set of rules created and enforced by social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior. Its precise definition is a subject of longstanding debate. The laws imposed by governments vary greatly from nation to nation. In the broadest sense, the laws of a nation determine the limits of a government’s power over its people and provide a context for political analysis.

A law lays down the principles of a particular activity or sphere of life, such as business law, which governs commercial transactions; tax law, which sets minimum standards for income and corporate taxes; property law, which defines ownership rights; labour law, which governs working conditions; and medical jurisprudence, which outlines treatment options for patients. Other specialised areas of law include immigration and nationality law, which determines the right to live and work in a country that is not one’s own; criminal law, which defines offences against the state; and family law, including divorce proceedings and the rights of children.

The study of law is a broad academic field, encompassing legal history, philosophy, economic analysis and sociology. The practice of law is usually regulated by the state or independent regulating bodies, with modern lawyers achieving distinctive professional identity through specific legal procedures (including passing a qualifying examination). Those who disagree with the outcome of a trial may request that it be reviewed in an appeals court. See also: legal profession; legal education; and legal ethics.

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