What is Law?

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Law is the set of rules, regulations or principles that governs people and communities. Its precise definition is a matter of longstanding debate. It has been described as a science, an art or both. Laws are created and enforced by societal or governmental institutions to regulate behaviour.

The principal functions of law are establishing standards, maintaining order, resolving disputes and protecting liberties and rights. It has a history of being influenced by many different factors beyond the rationalist theory of syllogism: felt necessities, social and economic trends, moral and political theories, intuitions of public policy (avowed or unconscious), even prejudices. It is a social institution that has evolved over the centuries.

One of the most complex aspects of the law is how a judge determines “what the law is” in any particular case. This involves a multi-stage process of research and analysis. This includes locating statutes and court cases relevant to the facts of the case, extracting judicial statements of principle, analogies or policies and balancing them with judgment in the light of the evidence and arguments before the tribunal. Judicial decisions and opinions of higher courts or legislatures tend to carry more weight than those of lower courts.

A large part of the law is common law, which has evolved over centuries in a variety of social settings and disputes of government. Its evolution has included incorporating and elevating custom, and a jury system of citizens sworn on oath to investigate and judge reliable criminal accusations and civil claims.