The Basics of Law


Law is a system of rules that society and governments develop in order to deal with crime, business agreements, social relationships, and other issues. A person who practices law is called a lawyer or a judge. This article discusses the basics of Law, and it also provides information about some of the many career paths available to people who study Law.

Legal systems vary from nation to nation, and the nature of laws varies by context. For example, a court in the United States may decide a case involving a citizen who is seeking asylum from persecution in another country. The same case, however, may be decided differently by a court in the Czech Republic, where a person who is seeking asylum is not likely to face persecution. In addition, a judge in the United States may use different arguments to reach a decision than would a judge in a similar case heard by a court in China.

The basic function of a law is to determine what is right and what is wrong. In addition, a law can serve to organize society, maintain public order, and encourage social change. The primary purpose of a law, therefore, is to control behavior and promote order. A law can be either a written document or a set of customs and policies recognized and enforced by judicial authority. In addition, a law can be a set of rules for a particular subject or activity: a law of biology, for instance, is a group of principles that govern the behavior of living organisms.

In some cases, a law may be a legal document passed by a legislative body (such as a legislature in the United States). A law that is a written document, on the other hand, is usually called a statute or an act of Congress. Statutes are usually based on other laws, and they are often amended over time.

A law can also be a principle or convention that is generally accepted by society and which has been enacted into a statute by the legislative body: a constitutional amendment, for example, may be a law.

Other types of laws include common law, which is based on decisions by judges rather than on statutes passed by a legislature, and statutory law, which is the result of an action by a legislative body. A common type of statutory law is a civil code, which contains a comprehensive, codified set of legal statutes that clearly defines the cases that can be brought to court and the procedures for handling them. A standardized civil code can create greater consistency in how a court handles cases, and it can reduce biased systems in which the law is applied differently from case to case. Other types of statutory law include administrative codes, criminal codes, and zoning ordinances.