Law is a system of rules that are created and enforced through social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior. Its precise definition is a matter of longstanding debate. Law can be viewed as both an art and a science. It has also been described as the “rules of the game”.
There are many areas of law, ranging from family law to environmental protection. Some laws have a wide scope, while others are narrowly defined and apply only to a small group of people or activities.
The principal functions of law are to maintain order, settle disputes, ensure that people follow a code of behaviour and protect individuals’ liberties and rights. The way a nation’s legal system achieves these functions differs from country to country. The law may be made by a collective legislature, resulting in statutes, or it may be set by the executive through decrees and regulations, or established by judges through precedent, normally in common law jurisdictions. Private individuals can also create legally binding contracts, such as agreements to arbitrate disagreements. Governments also manage the provision of public services and utilities such as energy, water and telecommunications. They are bound by a range of social responsibility and safety rules, some of which are encoded in a constitution, written or tacit.
Some of the principal fields of law are international treaties, labour law, competition law and tax law. The latter includes regulations such as the Value Added Tax and corporate income tax. It also encompasses rules about the banking industry and the regulation of money.
Other fields of law include intellectual property law (patents, copyrights, trademarks), family law and criminal law. There is also a branch of law that covers space law, which addresses the legal aspects of human activities in Earth orbit and outer space.
The law is a complex field, and a career in it can be extremely rewarding. It is one of the most challenging jobs in society, and requires a high level of skill and knowledge. It is important for lawyers to be aware of changes in the law, and to be able to analyse and critique these changes in their practice. It is also important for lawyers to have an in-depth understanding of the law itself, and how it applies to their clients’ particular circumstances. This is known as ‘legal reasoning’. Legal articles are a useful tool for the law community in this respect, as they can help to communicate these insights to others in the profession. Articles can be used to promote awareness of the law and its applications, or as a forum for discussion of important issues and possible reforms. They can be written by academics, practitioners or non-lawyers, and are often published in a journal, book or magazine.