The Basics of Law


Law is the system of rules that a society or government develops to deal with issues such as crime, business agreements and social relationships. The term “law” is also used to refer to the professions that serve the legal system, such as lawyers and judges.

Legal systems vary widely from country to country and even within countries there are many variations. For example, in some countries terrorism cases are heard by the same courts that handle other criminal cases; in others they may be handled in special courts which are intended to focus on the unique issues involved in terrorism.

The purpose of law is to set standards, maintain order, resolve disputes and protect liberties and rights. Some legal systems meet these goals better than others; for example, a government with authoritarian control may keep the peace but might oppress minorities or political opponents.

Generally speaking, the rules of law are created and enforced by legislative, executive and judicial institutions. These institutions are charged with interpreting the law in light of the social context and values in which they exist. Laws must be consistent, transparent and fair; and should be written in a way that is easy for citizens to understand. They should be clear in defining rights and duties, yet flexible enough to adapt to social change by way of creative jurisprudence.

While there are many different types of law, they all tend to be structured in similar ways. They are made up of a series of articles or sections which outline the rules and regulations that govern specific activities. In the United States, these articles are typically referred to as statutes or regulations. Each statute or regulation contains a section that defines the activity it regulates, a section that describes how the statute is enforced and a section that sets out any penalties for breaking the law.

The legal system is not just a tool for punishing criminals or enforcing contracts; it is also a vehicle for achieving social and economic progress. This is why the development of a strong rule of law is an essential part of any country’s long-term prosperity. A strong rule of law promotes international peace and security; fosters economic growth, financial stability and development; reduces poverty; and protects people’s rights and freedoms. It is also fundamental to preventing corruption and restraining abuse of power by individuals, businesses and institutions. The Rule of Law should therefore be seen as an integral element of the 2030 Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals.