What Is Law?

Law is a set of rules created and enforced by social or governmental institutions to regulate behaviour and ensure justice and equity in society. The precise definition of law is a subject of long debate, but almost all theorists agree that it serves the ends of promoting and safeguarding human rights, maintaining public order and advancing communal well-being.

The term ‘law’ covers a wide variety of legal regimes. The most common forms of laws are the statutes, which set out specific and binding rules, and the common law, which provides the basis for legal decisions made by judges. Other examples of law include a) regulations (provision of goods or services such as water, energy or transport), b) contracts and commercial transactions, c) criminal and civil procedure, and d) administrative proceedings.

In the Bible, the word for law is tora (, or ), which refers to the moral admonitions of God, or biblical teaching. This is often translated as “law,” but tora more precisely means “instruction.” The Old Testament offers many admonitions that are not amenable to state enforcement, such as the prohibition of adultery (Exod 20:17) or the commandment to respect parents and children (Exod 23:4-5). Indeed, the most important role of the tora is to show sinners their need for Christ to redeem them from its condemnation (Rom 3:18; 5:20).

The modern concept of law has been greatly influenced by the work of sociologists and philosophers such as Max Weber and John Locke. Sociologists such as Ihering and Dean Roscoe Pound have emphasized that laws are the result of the collective needs and desires of societies. Pound argues that the purpose of laws is to meet those needs and desires, rather than to protect individual rights.

While the societal and political conditions that give rise to laws vary across time and place, the nature of legal processes remains roughly the same. In some countries, the law is codified in a constitutional document or national constitution. In others, law is based on custom, precedent and other traditions. Most countries have some form of judicial review, whereas in some the law is simply established by the executive or legislative branches of government.

The study of the law can be divided into two broad fields: legal theory and legal practice. The former examines the philosophies and principles that govern legal systems, while the latter describes how the law is interpreted and applied in specific cases. The study of the law requires knowledge of the different societal and political systems in which it operates, and an ability to apply this understanding to real-world problems. The legal profession is also characterized by the use of abstruse technical terminology, and the need to be familiar with a variety of legal doctrines and theories. This makes the job of a lawyer challenging but rewarding. It is an ideal career for those with a good analytical mind who have strong communication skills. In addition, it is a field in which women are increasingly well-represented.