The Basics of Law


Law is the system of rules that a society or government develops in order to deal with crime, business agreements and social relationships. It is an important part of everyday life and is used by most people to guide their behavior for moral, religious or emotional reasons.

Legal systems are based on principles, categories and rules derived from Roman law, with some influence of canon law and often augmented or modified by local custom or culture. Civil law systems are found on all continents and cover about 60% of the world.

Legislative systems rely primarily on statutes that set out specific rules, although courts have room to interpret and adjust laws to new situations and needs by way of interpretation and creative jurisprudence. They also provide a codified and self-evident expression of rights and duties, to ensure that remedies are clear and accessible to citizens.

Judicial systems use case law and other legal precedents to determine the proper application of law, both in cases before courts and in determining the basis for appeals to higher courts. Decisions of higher courts bind lower courts to assure that similar cases reach the same result, and are referred to as “precedent”.

There are three major categories of law that cover most areas of life: property, obligations and civil procedure. Property law covers ownership and possession of land, movable goods and intangible rights such as stocks and shares. Obligations law deals with obligations between individuals, and civil procedure focuses on rules that courts must follow as trials and appeals proceed.