The Law Encyclopedia


Law is the system of rules a society or community recognizes as regulating its members and defining their relationships with one another. It is enforced by government officials and interpreted by courts. The study of law encompasses a broad range of topics, from criminal and civil laws to constitutional law and international law. It also covers such issues as contract law, tort law, and property law.

The law shapes politics, economics, history and society in a number of ways. It is a method for settling disputes, a way to ensure people know where they stand in the social hierarchy and a means of preventing major societal change. Some legal systems serve their purpose better than others; for example, an authoritarian regime may keep the peace and maintain the status quo, but it might oppress minorities or political opponents.

In most jurisdictions, the law is made up of a combination of statutes and judicial decisions. The law is a complex beast, and it can be difficult to determine “what the law is” for any given situation. It is often helpful to start with an outline of the relevant facts, and to locate any statutes or judicial decisions that might help to answer this question. Then, it is a matter of analyzing the reasoning and analogies contained in those cases to determine how a court would rule on the specific facts of the case at hand. Decisions of higher courts or legislatures tend to carry more weight than those of lower courts.

Moreover, the law is a constantly changing entity. New technologies and scientific discoveries, such as genetic engineering and stem cell research, raise a host of new questions that need to be answered, and the legal process must keep pace with these changes. This dynamism is what gives law its sense of urgency and the sense that it is always being challenged by the world around us.

The Law Encyclopedia provides in-depth, specialist encyclopedic entries on all major aspects of law and legal systems. It contains more than 34,000 concise definitions and detailed, authoritative explanations of terms, concepts, processes and procedures. Its articles provide a wealth of information for researchers at every level, including academics, professionals and general readers.

Law is the study of the system of rules a particular country or community recognizes as regulating its members’ behavior and defining their relationships with one another. The word is derived from the Latin lege, which means ‘to lay down’ or ‘to establish’. It was also used in the Middle Ages as a term of honor for certain learned men, such as the scholars and philosophers who developed the science of law. It was later adopted by the English language as a synonym for lawyer. The use of the term continues to expand, and it is now applied to many different fields. In addition to its everyday meaning, the word law is used as a title for those who work in the field of law, such as judges and lawyers.