What Is Law?

Law is a system of rules enforced by government to regulate behavior and ensure that justice is served when people break the rules. It is also a profession that encompasses those who study and apply the law or work as lawyers, judges, or other judicial officers.

The precise definition of law is a matter of ongoing debate. In some instances, laws may be interpreted as social norms or ethical codes of conduct sanctioned by religious belief or the will of a deity: the law of self-preservation is such a case. In other contexts, laws are regarded as indisputable facts about the way the world works and the forces that govern it: the law of gravity, for instance.

The law shapes politics, economics, history and society in many ways. It is a major area of scholarly inquiry in legal history, philosophy, and economic analysis.

There are many types of law, ranging from criminal to family law to civil rights and regulation. The law shapes the way that governments and businesses operate by regulating such activities as transportation, banking, employment, and contracts. It can also regulate the provision of services such as utilities, such as water, energy and telecommunications.

Some types of law are specific to a particular region or country. For example, immigration law concerns the rights of people who are not citizens of a nation-state, while family law deals with marriage and divorce proceedings, adoptions, and child custody. Criminal law involves the punishment of people who break laws, and terrorism is considered a crime under international law.