The Definition and Practice of Law


The law is a set of rules created by the state which form a framework to ensure a peaceful society. If these rules are broken, sanctions can be imposed. Law is a broad term that can be used to refer to a variety of legal systems, with each having its own specific definition and purpose.

The core purposes of law are establishing standards, maintaining order, resolving disputes and protecting liberties and rights. It has evolved over time, with elements that date back centuries and others which are distinctly modern. The legal system is comprised of a variety of components, such as civil and criminal courts, statutes and regulations, the rules of evidence and the practice of the law.

In the United States, federal law originates with the Constitution, which gives Congress the power to enact statutes for limited purposes such as regulating interstate commerce. These statutes are then codified into the United States Code, which is the official compilation of general and permanent federal laws. Executive branch agencies may also create regulations that carry the force of law, such as those governing environmental protection or occupational safety and health. Many lawsuits turn on the meaning of a statute or regulation, and judicial interpretations of these rulings carry the weight of law under the “doctrine of stare decisis”.

Other types of law include labour law, which covers the tripartite industrial relationship between worker, employer and trade union, and civil procedure, which concerns the rules that must be followed by courts as trials and appeals proceed. Family law deals with marriage and divorce proceedings, child custody and property rights. Criminal law is concerned with the rights and duties of the individual citizen, including his or her right to a fair trial and due process of justice. Civil rights law encompasses an individual’s entitlement to certain privileges, such as voting and employment.

The practice of law is overseen by a government or independent regulating body, such as a bar association or law society. Lawyers are generally required to pass a rigorous legal examination and obtain a degree, such as a Bachelor of Laws or Bachelor of Civil Law, although some may also receive a Master of Laws, a Doctor of Laws or another higher academic qualification. A wide range of specialisms exist in the practice of law, from commercial and international law to biolaw and environmental law. The law can be influenced by political structures, such as a constitution and political party, and also by social factors, such as the customs and practices of a particular community. These are often referred to as cultural contexts of the law. Legal scholars have debated how these contextual factors shape the substance of the law.