Law is the system of rules that a community recognizes as governing its members’ behaviour. It is a complex subject with many layers of depth, and the study of Law requires a thorough understanding of legal terminology, process and theory. This article aims to provide the reader with an introduction to some of the most important terms used in the study of Law and to offer some insights into how a legal system works.
Law encompasses a wide range of topics and can be broken down into three categories for ease of reference, though the subjects often intertwine and overlap. They are the laws of property, the legal rights and duties of citizens and the procedures of courts to decide disputes. Property law, for example, covers such issues as ownership of land and what happens if two people claim the same piece of property. It also relates to the law of contracts and the law of torts.
The laws of a society are generally formulated after taking into account the needs and grievances of the people of that society. They have four principal purposes: establishing standards, maintaining order, resolving disputes and protecting liberties and rights.
It is impossible to imagine a world without the rule of law as it protects us from those who would break the trust between society and its members and between individual citizens. It stops crimes before they are committed and punishes those who commit them. In addition, it provides a peaceful way to resolve conflicts. For example, if two people want to live on the same piece of land, rather than fighting over it, they can go to the law courts and have their dispute decided.
In his classic work, The Law Merchant, William Blackstone argued that judges are the depositories of the law and that they should “decide every case according to the law, and not according to their own opinion.” Judges should also be impartial and make decisions only after careful examination of the evidence. This approach to judging was particularly important for a system of common law where there were no written constitutions or statutes.
The study of Law is vast, and the following list is only a small part of what is available. However, the following are a few important words that everyone should know: