What Is Law?

Law is a set of rules that a society enforces to ensure the safety and fairness of its members. A legal system imposes these laws and punishes those who break them with fines or imprisonment. Laws vary widely among societies. Some have written constitutions that encode the fundamental rights of their citizens, while others rely on judicial decisions. The laws of a country may also be influenced by its history and geographical location. The word “law” can also be used to refer to a specific career, as in Zola always dreamed of being a lawyer.

Law defines people’s rights and duties toward one another and the property they own. Contract law, for example, regulates agreements to exchange goods or services. Tort law compensates those who suffer injury or damage to themselves or their possessions, such as injuries in automobile accidents and defamation of character. Law can be a complex and confusing area. Lawyers can be helpful in explaining legal terminology and interpreting the law.

Some countries, such as the United States, use a common law system that relies on decisions made by judges in individual cases. This is contrasted with civil law systems that rely on legislative statutes. In common law systems, the decision of one judge binds future courts and establishes precedent. This is known as stare decisis.

In addition to regulating private agreements, laws also govern a range of public activities. Banking and financial law, for instance, sets minimum standards for the amount of capital banks must hold and rules about best practice in investment. These regulations are intended to reduce the risk of a financial crisis. Regulation also applies to utilities such as water, energy and telecommunications.

A number of legal terms have been derived from Latin or Greek. The Latin term lege means “to speak.” The Greek term loike is related to the verb loupa, meaning to follow or obey. The English language also has a few phrases that are based on these roots:

A law is the set of rules and regulations imposed by a state, region or nation to control the actions of its citizens. The Rule of Law requires adherence to laws that are publicly promulgated, equally enforced and independently adjudicated. It also requires measures to safeguard a person’s freedom and security, promote societal cohesion, ensure transparency and participation in government, and prevent official arbitrariness. The rule of law is essential to the functioning of a democratic society. Without it, there is the danger of anarchy and a Hobbesian war of all against all. For more information about this article, see Rule of Law and wikiHow’s Law articles.