What is Law?


Law is a system of rules that is created and enforced by social or governmental institutions to regulate behaviour. Its precise definition is a matter of longstanding debate and it has been variously described as a science and as the art of justice.

In a general sense, laws are rules that command what is right and forbid what is wrong. The law shapes politics, economics, history and society in a variety of ways. Its main functions are to define and settle disputes, provide security and promote co-operation between people.

There are many different types of laws, each covering a specific area of human activity. Competition law, for example, traces back to Roman decrees against price fixing and English restraint of trade doctrine while family law covers marriage and divorce proceedings. Immigration law and nationality law cover the rights of foreigners to live in a country and to gain or lose citizenship. Employment law includes the rights of workers and the regulations governing companies, while property law covers ownership and contracts.

Lawyers are professionals who advise and represent clients in legal matters, whether they are disputing a property purchase or challenging an unfair tax bill. They have a distinct professional identity that is achieved through specified legal procedures (such as passing a qualifying exam) and they are authorised to practice law by the authority of a government or an independent regulating body. They may also have titles of respect, such as Esquire to signify barristers of greater distinction or Doctor of Law to indicate those with higher academic degrees in the field of law.