What Is Law?


Law is a set of rules that regulates the behavior of individuals and groups of people. It covers a vast number of topics, some of which are very technical and obscure, others are broader in scope. There are several branches of law including contract law, property law (which includes everything from ownership of land to a person’s possessions such as books and vehicles), criminal law, tort law, constitutional law, civil rights, administrative law, and family law.

Legal systems vary from country to country and even within a single country. However, they tend to share many characteristics based on historically accepted justice ideals. Some systems are dominated by common law, other systems utilize civil law or religious laws.

There is no one definition of law, and the study of law is often a discussion of different approaches and theories. Blackstone was clear that judges are the depositories of the law, and they should decide cases on the basis of that law, but he also stated that “If any case be referred to a higher authority and it appear that the decision there made is contrary to reason or that the previous determination be more evident than this, it must be reversed.”

The law governs virtually every aspect of modern life in some way. The legal system ensures that public and private actors are accountable, and the rules that guide this accountability are transparent and accessible. For example, the law enables us to trust that contracts will be observed and that our utilities (including water, gas, and energy) will be supplied.