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What is Law?


Law is a set of rules that are created and enforced by social or governmental institutions to control behaviour. It is a complex discipline and a major source of controversy, and is also the subject of scholarly inquiry in history, philosophy, economic analysis and sociology.

Law covers a range of topics, from the basic principles of human rights to the complex issues of property ownership and legal liability. It is often used as a tool to protect the interests of people, businesses and government agencies, while at the same time respecting individual rights and ensuring that society remains safe, healthy and peaceful.

The most obvious law is the written constitutions and statutes of states, countries or regions that govern their citizens and ensure that justice is done in their courts. This is usually supplemented by laws regulating certain activities or areas of life that are deemed to be important to the health and welfare of the community. For example, labour laws regulate employment and industrial relations. Tax laws are governed by both the constitution and legislation and cover income taxes, corporation taxes, capital gains taxes, property tax and excise duty.

Often the law is a complex mixture of written statutes and common or customary rules interpreted and applied by judges. For example, property law covers the rules governing ownership and use of land, inherited property and intellectual property. Family law covers marriage, divorce and the rights of children. Immigration law and nationality laws are concerned with the right of people to live and work in a country other than their own, to acquire or lose citizenship, and to claim asylum.

Other laws are explicitly religious, based on precepts in a particular religion, for example Jewish Halakhah and Islamic Shari’ah. These laws may or may not be enforceable by the courts, but are often respected and acted on for moral or emotional reasons. The religious laws of the Bible are known as canon law in some church communities.

Lawyers, barristers and solicitors are all legal professionals who specialise in advising people on the law, representing them in court and giving decisions and punishments as part of their job. The study of the law is called jurisprudence, and those who wish to study it can choose from a range of subjects such as constitutional law; criminal law; family law; international law; labour law; property law; corporate law; constitutional and administrative law; medical jurisprudence; and terrorism. An article in law is a written paragraph or section of a legal document, such as a statute or code. An article sets out the terms of a contract or agreement, such as a bill or a contract, describing what is expected of each party and how damages are measured in cases of breach. It can also provide instructions on how to proceed in the event of a dispute or disagreement. Articles are found in statutes, codes and other legal documents such as contracts, affidavits, pleadings and letters.