What is Law?

Law is the system of rules enforced by a government that defines and protects its citizens’ rights and freedoms. Its precise definition is a matter of ongoing debate and differs between societies and individual persons. Its main purposes are to set standards, maintain order, resolve disputes, and protect liberty and rights. It may be created by social or governmental institutions – for example, a company’s constitution and corporate laws; civil rights and criminal laws; immigration and nationality laws; and family law. Alternatively, it can be created by private individuals, in the form of legally binding contracts or arbitration agreements, and implemented by courts through precedent (known as stare decisis).

Laws are typically written and published, but some laws are also found in a person’s common sense or instinctive behaviour. Many legal systems also contain a code of ethics and a code of conduct, and these often guide the behaviour of judges and officers of the court. Laws can be enacted by a group legislature, resulting in statutes; by the executive through decrees and regulations; or through judicial decisions, in case law jurisdictions. Private individuals can create legally binding contracts, including arbitration agreements, which adopt alternative ways of resolving disputes to standard court litigation.

The field of law covers a wide range of topics, from personal injury and property law to family law, labour law, and the law of science. Medical jurisprudence, for example, focuses on the rights and responsibilities of patients and medical professionals. Physician-patient privilege ensures the confidentiality of a patient’s conversations with doctors, while privacy laws cover how a person’s personal information is shared with others.

In the business world, commercial law deals with complex contract and property issues, such as agency, air and carriage of goods, bankruptcy, insurance, bills of exchange, and sales law. Family law includes marriage and divorce proceedings, child custody and parental rights, and inheritance laws. Employment law studies a tripartite industrial relationship between worker, employer and trade union, and involves labour rights, such as job security and health and safety laws.

A law firm can use its research insights to help clients understand how the law applies to their particular situations. These insights can take the form of articles, blogs, or FAQs and can provide key takeaways, implications and next steps for clients. These insights can help clients to avoid costly mistakes, minimise risks and achieve their desired outcomes more quickly and cost effectively. This can be especially important in a legal environment where there is increasing competition for clients. It can also reduce the need for a client to pay legal fees for advice and assistance. This helps to promote a culture of honesty and transparency in the legal sector. It is a goal that should be pursued by all law firms.