The Basics of Law


Law is the set of rules that a community or state enforces to regulate behavior. It is a field of study with numerous sub-topics, such as criminal law, tort law, property law, and more. Essentially, the law governs everything from the ownership of your car to a lawsuit brought against you for defamation of character. The primary functions of law are establishing standards, maintaining order, resolving disputes and protecting liberties and rights. In most societies, these objectives are served by a legal system that is clear, publicized and stable and is applied fairly.

From a philosophical standpoint, law is unique from other sciences and disciplines in that it has both descriptive and prescriptive elements. It tells people how they ought to behave and what they may require or not request from others and it dictates that if an individual does something illegal, he will be punished. Thus, it has normative characteristics that distinguish it from empirical science (as the law of gravity) and social science (as the law of supply and demand in economics).

It is a fact that laws are not always easy to understand, define or apply. The reason for this is because law is inherently complex, as are the issues that it addresses.

The main purposes of law are establishing standards, maintaining order, and resolving disputes and protecting liberties, and these have been outlined in a variety of ways by different philosophers and academics. For example, a liberal society can have the law that individuals must be treated equally and with dignity and respect and that private citizens’ rights are protected by the government or by private entities such as corporations.

There are also a number of societal functions that the law serves, such as keeping peace and maintaining the status quo, preserving minority rights or the right to change social circumstances, and promoting justice. In addition to these general purposes, the law can provide for economic development by regulating trade, promoting investment and facilitating employment.

Generally, the laws that are in place are either written down, in the form of statutes or codes, by a collective legislative body, decreed by the executive branch, as in the case of presidential orders and regulations, or established through judges’ interpretation of previous cases through the principles of precedent, as in common law jurisdictions.

The Law Center fields over twenty traveling advocacy competition teams each year, which allow students to gain hands-on experience with all aspects of law. These competitions expose students to the real-world applications of what they learn in the classroom, such as how to present a persuasive argument in a court of law or how to draft an effective contract. These experiences are invaluable in preparing students for a successful legal career. Law is a critical subject and an important part of our culture, so it is vital that students know how to navigate the complexities of the legal world.