What Is Law?

Law is a body of rules that governs behavior and is enforced by a controlling authority. In most places there are laws about not stealing, and people who break those rules are punished. Law is also a system of societal control that can be used to prevent the abuse of power by those in positions of authority.

Different societies have different definitions of law, but many include the idea that a society must have a central institution that is responsible for interpreting and enforcing the law. This could be a government, but it can also be a professional body, such as a bar association or law firm. Often laws are written in English, but there are many other languages that have their own systems of law.

The precise nature of law is a subject of ongoing debate. Some academics, such as John Rawls, have argued that there is no such thing as a law without morality attached to it. This view is known as legal positivism. Others have argued that the purpose of law is not to promote morality, but rather to serve the interests of society at large, such as by maintaining social order, facilitating trade and commerce and reducing crime.

There are numerous subfields of law, such as contract law (regulating agreements to exchange goods or services), property law (defining a person’s rights and duties toward tangible personal possessions) and administrative law (rules for governmental administration). In addition there is competition law, which regulates businesses that use their market power to manipulate prices for the benefit of consumers.

Lawyers are the professionals who interpret and apply law. They may specialize in particular areas of the law, such as commercial or criminal law. They are able to advise clients about their rights and obligations under the law, and can defend them in court against criminal charges or civil claims. Lawyers must be licensed to practice law, and may achieve this through a variety of ways, including successfully passing a bar exam. Some lawyers are awarded titles of respect, such as Esquire or Doctor of law, to indicate their status and accomplishments.

There are many areas of the law that require specialized training, such as the law of corporations or the law of the sea. Some fields of law are constantly changing, such as the rapidly evolving field of privacy and data protection. Other fields are based on ancient principles, such as the Jewish Halakha and the Islamic Shari’ah. Modern religions also have their own sources of law, such as Christian canon law and Jewish Talmudic law.