Law is the system of rules a community recognizes as regulating its members’ actions and protecting their rights. It encompasses a vast variety of activities, from criminal justice to family and employment law. It is both a source of scholarly inquiry and an important area of applied research. Oxford Reference offers trusted, expert-authored content in this area of study—from concise definitions to in-depth encyclopedic entries covering all aspects of this vast discipline.
Our comprehensive coverage includes legal history, philosophy, economic analysis, and sociology, as well as broader debates in theoretical frameworks such as law and morality, law and culture, and legal theory. The collection provides a wealth of information and insight into one of the most important and challenging topics in human society.
The legal concept of law is an important tool in understanding the structure and operation of social order and the relationship between the state and its citizens. It defines how individuals and groups interact with each other within a given society and allows for the peaceful resolution of disputes between them. It is the foundation of all societies.
Legal scholars argue that the law is a set of socially enforceable rules created and enforced by institutions that are based on objective principles of equality and justice. They also argue that the law is an ongoing process that constantly adapts to the changing social environment. However, this ideal of law as a science remains unfulfilled.
There is an increasing recognition that the law is not merely a collection of rules that regulate behavior but that it is a complex social system that impacts the lives of individual people in a wide range of ways. This complexity has given rise to a diverse array of subfields of study, including constitutional law, legal history, and political science.
A key aspect of the law is how it affects different groups in a society, such as the rich and the poor. One way this is reflected is in differences in the ways that the legal system deals with criminals and civil plaintiffs.
Another area of focus is the extent to which the law promotes or discourages specific behaviors. For example, the law may limit smoking in certain areas or require that cars be equipped with seat belts. The societal benefits and costs of these laws are the subject of considerable debate.
Another major area of legal study is the role of courts in the administration of the law. This includes the structure of courtrooms, the use of legal terminology and vocabulary, and the procedures used in a trial. The most common professions involved in the practice of law are attorneys, judges, and prosecutors. These professionals are often referred to as the “legal community” and their work is vital to the protection of the public’s rights. The legal community also provides a variety of other services to the broader society, such as mediation and arbitration services for conflict resolution. Moreover, it offers a wealth of career opportunities for the educated.