What is Law?

Law is the collection of rules, principles and guidelines that governs people’s daily lives. It defines what is allowed and not allowed and helps people live together in a peaceful and orderly way. Law also protects individual rights and punishes criminals.

Law includes many different types of rules, from the laws that regulate commercial transactions to those that set standards for medical care and schooling. Some of these rules are national and universal, while others apply only within a specific area such as family or immigration law.

The laws in a country are generally organized into several categories, such as administrative law, constitutional law, criminal law, civil rights, labor law and property law. Many of these areas are governed by state governments, while the federal government has some limited responsibilities such as regulating interstate commerce. Federal statutes are enacted by Congress, and these rules are often codified in the Code of Federal Regulations. The meaning of these rules is not always clear, however, because judges can interpret the law in different ways and their rulings are binding on the parties to a case.

Legal systems are shaped by culture, history and politics. In addition to laws governing behavior, there are also those that dictate the structure of a government and its functions. The role of a government in society is often debated, with Max Weber and other sociologists reshaping thinking on the extent to which a state should intervene in the daily lives of its citizens.

The most important function of a law is to keep a peaceable and safe society, but the law has other goals as well. For example, if two people claim the same piece of land, the law will help them resolve their conflict. Laws can also make sure that the police and other public officials are held accountable to the people they serve. They can set minimum standards for bank capital, and they can establish rules about investing money. They can even impose standards for the management of utilities such as water and energy, which are increasingly being privatised.

Articles about the law include those that discuss how to become a lawyer or other professional, and those that provide a general background on the subject. Other articles explore the impact of laws on politics, economics and social issues. For examples, see criminal law; censorship; court; law and justice; and war. For a more in-depth look at the philosophy of law, see Hans Kelsen’s pure theory of law. For the judicial branch of the government, see court of law. For the international aspects of law, see international law. This article is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon for that purpose. Please consult a qualified attorney for professional advice about your specific situation. This site is maintained by FindLaw, a Thomson Reuters business. The law section of FindLaw is designed to help individuals and businesses understand the complexities of the American legal system.