The Definition of Law


Law is the system of rules a society sets to maintain order and protect people and property from harm. Such laws are usually written by the government, and they are enforced by the police and by courts. They often must uphold and not contradict the Constitution, a document outlining the most basic rules of the country.

The term law is also used to refer to the profession of lawyers, who either prosecute or defend people accused of violating the law. Lawyers must attend law school and pass a bar exam in order to become licensed to practice.

Depending on their area of specialization, lawyers may specialize in areas such as intellectual property law, labor and employment law, maritime law, medical jurisprudence, or constitutional law. The field of law can be divided into civil law and common law systems, as well as into specific disciplines, such as agency, air law, bankruptcy, carriage of goods, commercial transaction, contract, constitutional law, criminal law, family law, immigration law, intellectual property law, judicial decisions, legal ethics, law & morality, legal procedure, legal theory, medical jurisprudence, maritime law, taxation, and torts.

Justification is a form of legal reasoning that seeks to ground the validity of a legal decision in the facts and circumstances of a case. It usually involves a legal norm, such as the principle of “every person has a right in his good name,” or the more general rule that “every person holds a right to a certain object,” as well as other legal standards.

Holmes’s Definition of Law

In a classic scientific sense, a law is an indisputable fact that describes how the world operates and the forces in it work. But it does not explain why the world operates as it does, or describe how it is that men act the way they do.

A law is not a definite, prescriptive, or even descriptive description of what must happen; rather it merely defines some rules to abide by. This is why the sciences and the judicial world both embrace a form of objectivity, while still pursuing the Robertisan ideal of fairness.

The earliest legal systems, such as that of Rome, were based on customs and privileges. Those of later centuries, however, began to be centralized. For example, in England in the 13th century, three courts–the Exchequer, the Common Pleas, and the King’s Bench–applied common law to cases.

There is a great deal of difference in the way people see and interpret law from one nation to another. In some countries, citizens are subject to a wide variety of different customs and privileges, whereas in others, the government has total control over the laws and how they are applied.

As a result, the concept of law itself is highly variable from place to place, and it can be hard to develop a consistent definition. This is because law differs with the political landscape of each nation. The United States, for example, has a relatively stable and progressive government, but many other nations, such as Russia and China, are authoritarian and less democratic. The resulting instability in the relationship between the government and the public can lead to an erosion of basic human rights, which may be perceived as a violation of ‘law’.