The Basics of Law


Law is a complex framework that shapes politics, economics, history and society in many ways. It also defines the rights of individuals against the government and regulates the relationships between people. Most countries have a written constitution that codifies the rules of a country, while others have a constitution that is tacit or based on custom.

The main purposes of law are to establish standards, maintain order, resolve disputes and protect liberties and property. Law is a system of rules that is applied fairly and equally to all people regardless of social class or wealth. It is also a way of resolving conflicts and preventing violence.

Contract law regulates agreements to exchange goods or services, and property law determines people’s rights and duties toward tangible objects like cars, houses or clothes as well as intangible assets such as stocks and bank accounts. Family law covers marriage and divorce proceedings and children’s rights. Employment law includes worker, employer and trade union relations, while environmental law protects natural resources from harmful pollution. The study of a religion’s holy book or sharia provides additional laws through interpretation, Qiyas (reasoning by analogy), and Ijma (consensus).

In common law legal systems, decisions made by courts are recognized as law on equal footing with legislative statutes. These decisions are binding precedents, or stare decisis, meaning that lower courts must follow the reasoning of higher courts in similar cases. The framers of the United States Constitution sought to ensure that no one could gain absolute power over the law by separating the legislative, executive and judicial branches of the federal government.