The Basics of Law
Law is a body of rules that a government, community or group of people agrees to follow. It serves a number of purposes, including establishing standards, maintaining order, resolving disputes and protecting individuals and property. It is enforced by a central authority, such as a judge or a police force.
There are numerous fields of law, and many of these intersect. Employment law, for example, deals with the rights of workers and employers, while civil procedure is concerned with how trials and appeals are conducted in court. Tort law, meanwhile, defines the legal rights of people who are harmed by the actions of others, whether through an automobile accident or defamation of character. Criminal law concerns the punishment of people who commit offenses against the state.
The development of law has been closely linked to the evolution of human civilizations. The Code of Hammurabi, for instance, consolidated ancient Babylonian law and had it chiseled into stone tablets for everyone to see in the marketplace. The earliest judicial bodies were tribunals that heard cases of disputing parties and made their decisions based on evidence presented before them.
In modern times, however, most countries have a constitutional framework that establishes the role of courts and limits their jurisdiction to resolving disputes and upholding fundamental principles. These constitutional principles usually include the separation of powers and the supremacy of the Constitution over a legislature or executive branch. The principle of the separation of powers is a vital part of the rule of law that Max Weber and other social theorists developed in response to the rise of modern military, policing and bureaucratic power over the lives of ordinary citizens.
Despite these structural limits on the scope of law, laws still govern many areas of our lives. Contract law governs the agreements we make to exchange goods and services, while property law defines our rights and duties toward tangible (i.e., real estate) and intangible (i.e., stock options) possessions. Transactional law is the practice of law concerning business and money, while biolaw focuses on the intersection of law with the life sciences. The language used in a legal article often depends on the field of law, and may take a position on controversial changes to legislation, as is the case with this piece. In general, a legal article will be longer than an ordinary article or essay, with footnotes and other references to support the arguments made in the text. The author of a legal article will typically also have an academic background in the subject matter and be familiar with the latest developments in that field. These features can help readers understand the argument being made and draw their own conclusions about it. In some cases, legal articles may be written for a lay audience. However, they are more likely to be used by lawyers and other legal professionals. For this reason, they are more likely to use highly technical language and provide detailed research on the topic being discussed.