Law is the set of rules that govern the behavior of people and institutions in a society. It serves a number of purposes, such as establishing standards, maintaining order, resolving disputes, and protecting liberties and rights.
In legal theory, there are two primary mechanisms by which legal rights come into existence. One is through “acts of law” (i.e., judicial decisions directly bestowing rights) or through the recognition of certain actions that are intended to create those rights, such as gifts, forfeitures, consent, appointments, and last wills and testaments (Fitzgerald [Salmond] 1966: 333-341; Paton 1972: 319-320).
The other mechanism is through “justification” (Raz 1970: 175-183; MacCormick 1977: 189; Raz 1994: 258-263; Wellman 1995: 24-29; McClure & Glinn 1999: 57-61; McMillan 2010: 62-72). Justification involves a legal norm grounding – a rule of nature or other law.
Justification can take the form of a legal rule or principle of jurisprudence, an institution, a person’s moral character, or even a non-legal basis. It may be a natural law, such as Boyle’s law, or it can be a man-made rule created by someone to explain a process in the world.
Examples of laws that describe invariable relationships between phenomena under a particular set of conditions include atomic physics, hydrodynamics, and genetics. Often, these are rules of thumb, or principles that can be applied universally, though they will vary slightly from country to country.
Law is not limited to regulating the activities of individuals; it can also govern social groups, corporations, and organizations. This is reflected in the fields of administrative law, civil procedure, criminal law, and constitutional law.
Constitutional law deals with the basic rules that a government needs to follow in order to operate and provide services. It includes issues such as whether or not a government is legitimate, who can be elected to office, how elections are organized and how they are administered, and what kind of rights and privileges citizens have.
Another major branch of law is regulation, which regulates the public services and utilities that are provided by governments or private companies. These include electricity, gas, and water.
Some laws, such as those regulating trade, are designed to protect the interests of consumers and businesses. Competition law, for example, is a major field of international business law.
Labour law is a branch of law that concerns the tripartite relationship between a worker, an employer, and a trade union. This includes issues such as job security, health and safety, and minimum wage.
Commercial law is a broad area of law that covers contract and property law. This field of law also includes areas such as agency, insurance, bills of exchange, insolvency, and sales law.
There are many different types of laws, but all have the same goal: to establish and maintain order in a society. These laws can be grouped into three main categories: (1) laws that apply to individuals, (2) those that apply to business and corporations, and (3) those that apply to the state.