The Importance of Law


Law is the body of rules enforced by a governing authority that govern conduct, maintain order, and ensure justice. It is the basis of a society and is a complex framework that requires specialized study. Law encompasses a broad range of disciplines and professions. Among these are lawyers, judges, and advocates. These are professionals who advise clients, represent them in court, and make decisions and punishments. The study of law also includes a range of philosophical and empirical inquiries into the nature of good and evil, morality, empirical and social science and justice (the fair distribution of goods/privileges and burdens in a community).

In its broadest sense, a legal system is a set of principles that govern how a country or region conducts itself. These include laws relating to commerce, immigration, family, property, and criminal activity. The study of law is important because it helps us understand the ways in which societies organize themselves, how they settle disputes, and protect their citizens from abusive power.

The fundamental purposes of law are to establish standards, keep the peace, preserve the status quo, resolve conflicts and promote social change. Various legal systems serve these purposes differently. For example, an authoritarian regime may keep the peace but it may also oppress minorities and limit freedom of expression. Similarly, the centralized rule of Europe’s merchant law – known as the Law Merchant – provided common standards for trading but also reinforced traditional legal rights. During the 18th and 19th centuries, this Law Merchant was replaced by a set of civil codes that were more consistent with nationalism, as influenced by the Napoleonic Code and German law.

Ideally, Law should be epistemically accessible – that is, a system of norms promulgated as public knowledge so that individuals can internalize them, figure out what they require, and use them as a framework for their plans and expectations, and to settle disputes with others. It is also desirable for laws to be clear, simple, and able to anticipate changing needs.

These features are important to people because the ability of law to meet its basic purposes depends on whether it is a system that enables a person to predict how her actions will be treated by those in power, and to plan accordingly. It should also be a system that allows ordinary citizens to challenge the legitimacy of governmental decisions, and provide oversight to prevent corruption of the judicial process and the abuse of police and military power.

In contemporary jurisprudence, the concept of Law is highly debated. Some scholars have argued that the principle of legality, which asserts that all acts of the state are lawful unless expressly prohibited by the Constitution or other law, is outdated and no longer valid in our increasingly pluralistic societies. They have suggested that a more modern approach should focus on the principle of procedural fairness and include a right to an adversarial process. Other scholars, however, have defended the validity of this principle and its importance to our democracy.