What Is Law?

What Is Law?


Law is the set of rules that are created and enforced by social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior. It has been variously described as a science and as the art of justice. Its precise definition is a matter of longstanding debate, but it usually includes some form of enforceable commandments or contracts that dictate what citizens must do and what they must not do in order to live in harmony with their fellows. For example, most countries have laws against murder, and if someone commits that crime they can expect to be punished in some way.

Legal theory is a broad academic discipline that encompasses a wide range of topics, from the foundations of the law to its practical application. The study of law is often divided into subfields, such as civil, criminal, and constitutional law. Each of these areas provides insights that can help people better understand the law as a whole.

Jurisprudence is one of the oldest and most important fields in legal studies, examining the development and meaning of laws and their relationship to society. It is often considered the most fundamental branch of legal knowledge, and is a crucial component in the legal profession.

The origins of modern jurisprudence can be traced to the Italian university town of Bologna, where scholars and practitioners were exposed to a rich tradition of legal thinking that continues to influence the law today. The university town’s influence extends well beyond its borders, and its students have shaped the laws of other countries around the world.

One of the major tenets of jurisprudence is that laws must be both objective and impartial in their application to all individuals. This means that the law must be clear, and it must apply to all situations without discrimination. For example, the law should be applied equally to women and men, and it must apply equally to rich and poor people. The idea of fairness is a central tenet of the law, and it is what makes it a moral and ethical institution.

Another tenet is that the law must be stable, and it must be followed consistently. This means that a decision made in one case should be the same in a different case, unless there is a good reason to change it. For instance, if a court’s ruling in one case is against common sense or divine law, it should not be followed in a later case.

Other key tenets of jurisprudence include the concept of precedent and the notion of legal rights. A precedent is a court decision in an earlier case with facts and law similar to those of a current dispute. This decision will govern a court’s decision in a similar case unless it is overturned. The law defines some precedents as binding, while others need not be followed by courts but can still be considered influential.

Other important terms related to law include discovery, a judge’s role in the trial process, and an en banc hearing. Discovery refers to the examination, before a trial begins, of facts and documents in the possession of the opposing sides that will be used at the trial. An en banc hearing is when the full court (usually of judges) decides a case, rather than just a smaller group of them.