What is Law?


Law is the system of rules and guidelines that regulates behaviour in a given jurisdiction. It can be created by a legislative body, resulting in statutes; by executive decrees and regulations; or established through case law in common law jurisdictions. Private individuals may also create legally binding contracts, including arbitration agreements which adopt alternative ways of resolving disputes to standard court litigation.

Legal systems are inherently political: they embody the social and political choices of those who make them up, and the power of those institutions to shape society. Whether laws should or shouldn’t comprise certain precepts is a matter of debate, and whether they are right or wrong remains impossible to empirically verify.

The purpose of the law is to establish standards, maintain order, resolve disputes and protect liberties and rights. Law has many branches, including family, business and criminal law. Other areas include immigration, which relates to the rights of foreigners to live and work in a nation-state that is not their own; and regulation, which covers the management of public services and utilities. Banking law includes rules about minimum capital requirements, and financial regulation sets rules for best practice in investment. Commercial law encompasses complex contract and property law. Companies law sprang from the law of trusts, on the principle of separating ownership and control, while the law of agency, insurance, bills of exchange, insolvency and bankruptcy law and sales law all trace back to the medieval Lex Mercatoria.