What Is Law?
Law is a set of rules that govern the behavior of people and the relationships between them. The word is also used to describe a career in which people study and practice these rules. A person practicing law is called a lawyer.
The study of law is multifaceted and encompasses a wide range of subjects. Many areas of law deal with human rights and the protection of individual liberty. Others involve the rules that bind businesses and people in commercial transactions. Still, other areas of law focus on the relationship between a human being and the natural world. For example, environmental laws protect the natural resources of a country or region and control how humans interact with them.
Civil law, criminal law, and constitutional law are all areas of the field that focus on the interactions between people and their governments or other bodies governing them. In common law countries, decisions of courts are considered “law” on an equal footing with legislative statutes and executive regulations. This is known as the doctrine of binding precedent, or stare decisis, and it helps to ensure that similar cases reach similar results.
In contrast, countries that have a civil law tradition follow the rules of a code rather than a common law system. The law of these countries differs from the common law in several respects, including the way that legal rights are created. Civil law jurisdictions recognize a variety of acts as conferring legal rights, including judicial decisions and certain governmental actions such as grants, forfeitures, or donations.
Other areas of law include family law, which includes marriage and divorce proceedings, as well as the rights of children. Labor law is concerned with the tripartite industrial relationship between employee, employer, and trade union; it also covers issues such as workplace safety and fair wages. The law of property encompasses the rights of individuals to ownership of goods and the means to transfer that ownership. The law of the sea and admiralty law establishes the basis for free trade and commerce across oceans and seas.
Another area of law is administrative law, which deals with the rules that govern the operations of government agencies. Examples of administrative law are the rules that govern the Patent and Trademark Office and the Federal Courts. In addition, there are the rules that govern the conduct of trials and other judicial proceedings. When a judge violates these rules, he or she is said to have acted in bad faith. The violation of these rules is a criminal offense, and the person committing the crime may be fined or put in jail depending on the severity of the crime. An individual who has been found guilty of violating the law can file an appeal asking another court to change the judgment or decision of the original trial court. This is known as an appeal or a writ of certiorari. The person requesting the appeal is called the appellant or the defendant.