Requirements for a Well-Found Legal System

Law is a set of rules and practices that govern people’s interactions. The precise definition of law is the subject of longstanding debate, but it has generally been described as a system of norms that are enforced by institutions in order to control behaviour. Laws are enforceable through social and/or political mechanisms, and they may be created through the formal legislative process, resulting in statutes; through executive decrees and regulations; or through judicial interpretation of precedent (commonly known as case law). Private individuals can also create legally binding contracts, which often use alternative ways of resolving disputes to standard court litigation.

In the broadest sense, law is any rule made by an authority that must be obeyed, and which can be enforced through penalties. Most commonly, however, the word is used to describe a body of laws created by a government and that cover an entire nation or state. Examples of laws include tax laws, property laws, family law, employment law and criminal laws.

While the rules that constitute law can be applied to any aspect of human interaction, there are certain features that are fundamental to a well-functioning legal system. These include:

The Rule of Law

The most fundamental requirement is the presence of a well-defined and accepted set of rules that are both understandable to and compliant by citizens. In addition, the law should be reasonably stable over time so that people can plan their affairs with confidence, and the legal consequences of their actions are predictable. The rule of law thus protects against anarchy and the Hobbesian war of all against all.

Other requirements for a functioning legal system include:

Fairness, Transparency and Accountability

Fairness means that all citizens have equal access to justice. This includes the right to appeal a judgment, regardless of their wealth or status in society. Transparency refers to the ease with which citizens can find out how their governments manage public resources and request information from government officials. Accountability is the degree to which government officials and agents are held accountable for their actions. This includes the right to vote in elections, and to hold elected officials responsible for their performance.

A well-functioning legal system is also open to all members of society, and ensures core human, contract and procedural rights are respected. This includes providing equal protection against violence and discrimination.

Law in Practice

Law is an extremely complex and diverse field, encompassing numerous types of jurisprudence. The study of law is primarily concerned with examining the relationship between laws and other social phenomena, including political systems, economics, history and society. The law is a dynamic force that can be influenced by many different factors, and its impact on these other areas can be substantial. Moreover, there are also many different ways in which the law can be understood and articulated, and this is a key area of ongoing research. For example, there is a great deal of work on the concept of law as it is experienced by women.