What Is Law?


Law is a set of rules that are created and enforced by social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior, protect individuals and property, settle disputes, and promote social stability. It is a generalized term that encompasses many specific areas of legal practice, such as contract law, criminal law, family law, estate planning, labour law, and property law.

Typically, the law is seen as both positive and natural; positive law refers to laws devised by man that are based on his innate sense of right and wrong. These laws are derived from nature, and they may also be based on the commandments of God.

On the other hand, natural law derives its authority from the fundamental principles of morality and justice, and it is the foundation of the legal system. It is an essential component of a democratic society.

While legal rules have the power to bind people, they do not necessarily have the power to bestow rights. This is because legal rights must be accompanied by the corresponding duties that are designed to give those rights effect, and a duty’s validity is generally derived from other legal norms (MacCormick 1977: 189; Raz 1994: 258-263).

When law does confer rights on a person, these rights can be expressed as either rights in personam or rights in rem. Rights in personam are those that designate a specific and definite person-object association; these include the laws of obligations, such as contracts and trusts, and the law of torts, which include damages for breach of contract or negligence. Rights in rem are those that are not expressly formulated against any person, but rather they are ascribed to the person by other legal mechanisms such as legal acts of conferral or judicial decision (e.g. gifts, forfeiture, consent, appointment, or wills and testaments).

It is not uncommon for the same law to apply to a person in a different situation; this is referred to as the law of the case. This concept reflects the fact that there is no one set of rules to govern all situations, but rather a flexible law that can adapt to changing circumstances. For example, the law of gravity applies to all objects in the universe, but this law can be amended through scientific research in order to reflect the reality that our understanding of the world is continually evolving.

As the legal world grapples with rapidly changing conditions, it has become increasingly common for scholars and practitioners to consider how law should evolve with society. Current conceptions of “arbitrary and capricious” review, for instance, largely focus on whether agencies have explained their decisions in statutory, factual, or scientific terms. This article explores the normative and practical significance of a new approach to law, one that recasts legal rights as legal norms and that aims to treat the individual as the primary unit of concern for the law. The author concludes that this approach can provide a basis for restoring the legitimacy of intellectual property law in the face of its growing disrepute.