What Is Law?


Law shapes politics, economics, history and society. It is a system of rules enforceable by social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior, with its precise definition a matter of longstanding debate.

Legal systems vary greatly from nation to nation, with their foundations largely determined by local history, connections with other countries, and adherence to international standards. Despite these differences, many of the defining features of any legal system are the same.

Religion – Law is often explicitly based on religious precepts, as in Jewish Halakha and Islamic Sharia, which translate as the “path to follow.” Christian canon law also survives in some church communities. It is often based on religious jurisprudence, including Qiyas (reasoning by analogy), Ijma (consensus) and precedent.

Business – Commercial law covers complex contract and property law, including the law of agency, insurance, bills of exchange, insolvency and bankruptcy law, as well as sales law. It grew out of the medieval Lex Mercatoria, and was codified into countries’ local law under civil codes in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Companies – Company law originated with the law of trusts, on the principle of separate ownership and control. This was further developed under the joint stock companies Act 1856, and today focuses on issues such as corporate taxation and capital investment regulations.

Evidence – Courts must prove their case with valid and admissible materials. This involves both direct and circumstantial evidence, such as eyewitness testimony and other forensic evidence. It is often the responsibility of judges to decide which evidence will be admitted in court, and to administer the judicial process in general.

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