What Is Law?


A set of rules that are created and enforced by social or governmental institutions to regulate behaviour. The precise definition of law is a subject of longstanding debate, and it has been variously described as a science and as the art of justice.

Laws exist to govern the conduct of humans and the relationship between people, whether within families, businesses or communities. They are enforceable by force, and they can include punishment for crimes or rewards for good behaviour. Laws may be written or unwritten, and they can consist of statutes, contracts or custom and tradition.

There are many different types of Law, covering a variety of topics including:

The shape of the physical world and the limitations inherent in it limit what can be achieved by law. Hence it cannot, for example, mandate behaviours that are unattainable or force people to do things beyond their capabilities. In addition, the fact that humans are fallible means that the content of Law can change as human minds evolve and experience new situations.

Nevertheless, some of the core principles of Law remain unchanged. These include supremacy of the law, equality before the law, accountability to the law, separation of powers, participation in decision-making, legal certainty and avoidance of arbitrariness.

A career in Law is highly respected, and there are many opportunities to move into leadership roles, especially at large firms where you’ll be part of a team that works collaboratively on projects for clients with very high stakes. Most Law students take a broad range of courses, such as administrative law, civil litigation, contracts, corporations, constitutional law, evidence, family law, professional responsibility, taxation and jurisprudence, and many universities supplement this core curriculum with a wide variety of clinical (experiential) learning opportunities.

The study of Law is known as Jurisprudence, and it encompasses the entire spectrum of legal knowledge from the law of torts to corporate law. The Law of Contracts covers agreements between private individuals and companies to exchange goods and services, and property law covers the rights and obligations that people have toward their tangible possessions — such as land and buildings — as well as intangible assets, such as bank accounts and shares. Law of Torts deals with claims by people who have been harmed or deprived of something they value, such as their health or dignity; and Criminal Law covers the rules and sanctions that apply to offenses against state authority. A legal education also includes the study of the history of Law, including the development of Roman and Greek law and the codification of medieval Western law by kings and nobles. This has resulted in a body of case law that is still used today. This case law provides a valuable source of precedent for judges deciding future cases. The Law also comprises a number of fixed principles that help to guard against the arbitrary and dishonest decisions of individual judges. These are called fixed principles of justice and are based on the ancient idea that “to seek to be wiser than the law is the very thing which the law forbids.” (Aristotle, Politics, Book IV, Chapter II).