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What Is Law?

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Law is the system of rules that a particular country or community recognizes as regulating the actions of its members. It covers everything from criminal and civil rights to taxes, trade, social security and property ownership. It involves the drafting of laws and the courts that enforce them, as well as broader discussions of the principles behind legal systems.

Some countries, such as the United States, have a common law system, which relies on court decisions to create law. These decisions are collected and published into a code called case law. Other countries, such as Japan, have a civil law system. This system uses legislative statutes and a system of precedent, where rulings by higher courts bind lower ones to assure that similar cases will come to the same conclusion.

The definition of law varies widely, and is often influenced by the philosophical ideas of the time. Utilitarian philosophers, like Jeremy Bentham, argued that the purpose of law is to make life better for its subjects. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, on the other hand, believed that there are natural laws of human nature and that morality is a fundamental part of law.

Laws are generally written by governments to ensure a fair and orderly society. They are enforced by police and the military, and are designed to protect the lives of individuals, the environment and property. The law shapes politics, economics and history in a variety of ways. For example, corporations may use law to persuade people to buy their products (such as automobiles or e-cigarettes), and to protect themselves from lawsuits.

People who write and research the law are called lawyers, or ‘jurists’. A career in law can be challenging, but can also be rewarding and satisfying. Laws are constantly changing, so it is important to stay current on the latest developments. Legal writing should be clear and concise, without the use of jargon or complex terminology that makes it difficult to understand. It is often helpful to include tables, charts or graphs in an article about the law, as this can help readers visualize important information.

Ultimately, the success of a nation depends on the quality of its legal system. A key question is whether the law is stable and predictable, and does it apply equally to all citizens, regardless of wealth or social status. Other questions concern the checks and balances on government power, such as a free press and the independence of the judiciary.

Law has a wide range of applications in contemporary society, and the legal profession is growing rapidly. There are now more than 100 million people worldwide who work in the field of law. Some of them are called lawyers, and they advise clients about legal issues, represent them in court and give decisions on punishments. The others are called judges, who are responsible for hearing and judging court cases. These roles require a wide range of skills. They are all essential to a functional society.

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