What Is Law?

Law shapes politics, economics and history in a wide variety of ways. It also serves as a mediator of relations between people.

For example, employment law governs the tripartite industrial relationship between employer, trade union and worker, and may cover issues such as job security or a minimum wage. Contract law regulates agreements to exchange goods or services, such as contracts to buy or sell shares. Property law defines a person’s rights and duties toward tangible goods such as houses or land (real property) and personal possessions like clothes, books or vehicles. Evidence law outlines which materials are admissible in courts to build a case.

Modern societies often create law through a complex set of procedures involving legislatures and courts that are overseen by independent regulating bodies. Lawyers are typically required to follow these procedures and obtain a legal qualification such as a Bachelor of Laws, Bachelor of Civil Law or Juris Doctor degree before being allowed to practice law.

However, the precise definition of law varies widely from country to country. In countries that use common law, it requires a lengthy process of research to determine ‘what the law is’ in any given situation. This involves ascertaining the facts of the case, locating previous court decisions on similar matters and reasoning from those decisions by analogy. Laws may also be shaped by the power and influence of political or military leaders and the aspirations of citizens for greater political and social justice.