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Law (from the late Old English lagu of probable North Germanic origin) in politics and jurisprudence, is a set of rules or norms of conduct which mandate, proscribe or permit specified relationships among people and organizations, intended to provide methods for ensuring the impartial treatment of such people, and provide punishments of/for those who do not follow the established rules of conduct.Law is typically administered through a system of courts, in which judges hear disputes between parties and apply a set of rules in order to provide an outcome that is just and fair. The manner in which law is administered is known as a legal system, which typically has developed through tradition in each country.Legal practitioners, most often, must be professionally trained in the law before they are permitted to advocate for a party in a court of law, draft legal documents, or give legal advice.
The stela of King Hammurabi depicts the god Shamash revealing a code of laws to the king.
The stela of King Hammurabi depicts the god Shamash revealing a code of laws to the king.

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Legal traditions
Bodies of law
Philosophy of law
Anthropology of law
Practice of law

Legal traditions - Contents

There are generally four broad legal traditions that are practiced in the world today.

Civil law
The civilian system of law is a codified law that sets out a comprehensive system of rules that are applied and interpreted by judges. It is by and large the most commonly practiced system of law in the world, with almost 60 % of the world's population living in a country ruled on the civilian system.The most important difference to common law is that normally, only legislative enactments are considered to be legally binding, but not precedent cases. However, as a practical matter, courts normally follow their previous decisions. Furthermore, in some civil law systems (e.g. in Germany), the writings of legal scholars have considerable influence on the courts.In most jurisdictions the core areas of private law are codified in the form of a civil code, but in some, such as Scotland they remain uncodified. The civil law system has its origins in Roman law, which was adopted by scholars and courts from the late middle ages onwards. Most modern systems go back to the 19th century codification movement. The civil codes of many countries, particularly former French and Spanish colonies closely trail the Code de Napoléon in some fashion. However, this is not true for most Central and Eastern European, Scandinavian and East Asian countries. Notably, the German BGB was developed from Roman law with reference to German legal tradition and was a decisive influence to the following civil codes in other countries.The importance of the Code Napoléon should also not be overemphasized as it covers only the core areas of private law, while other codes and statutes govern fields such as corporate law, administrative law, tax law and constitutional law.

Common law
The Common Law is an Anglo-Saxon legal tradition, based on judicial decisions that create binding precedent. The Common Law system is currently in practice in Australia, Canada (excluding Quebec), United Kingdom, and the United States (although Louisiana uses both the Common Law and Napoleonic Civil Law). In addition to these countries several others have adapted the Common Law system into a mixed system. For example, India and Nigeria operate largely on a common-law system but incorporate a good deal of customary law and religious law.

Customary law
Customary law are systems of law that have evolved largely on their own within a given country and have been adapted to meet the needs of the particular culture. Note that customary law may also be relevant within jurisdictions following another legal tradition in fields or subfields of law where no legislative enactment exists. For example, in Austria, scholars of private law often claim that customary law continues to exist, whereas public law scholars dispute this claim. (In any case, it is hard to find any practically relevant examples.)

Religious law
Many countries base their system of law on religious tenets. The most dominant system of this form of law is the Sharia, or Islamic law.On a smaller level there are still regions of the world that practice canon law, which is followed by Catholics and Anglicans, and a similar legal system is used by the Eastern Orthodox Church. The same can be said for Jewish law (halakha or halacha), which is followed by Orthodox and Conservative Jews, in substantially different forms. However, Christian canon law copes almost solely with ecclesiastical relations, unlike Sharia, which relates also to civil law (like property rights, contracts, partnerships and covering damages) and administrative law.

Bodies of law - Contents

In the broadest sense, bodies of law can be subdivided on the basis of who the parties to an action are. It is frequent that practiced fields of law overlap into several of these bodies of law.

Private law
The area of private law in a legal system concerns law that oversees disputes between private individuals. This area is, to a large extent, the most comprehensive area of law, dealing with all non-criminal harm one person does to another. Private law may be referred to as civil law, but is not to be confused with the system of civilian law predominant in many nations.

Public law
The area of public law, in a general sense, is the law in a given legal system that concerns disputes between the government and private individuals residing within the country. The state can bring actions against people for criminal acts, as well as breach of regulatory laws.Equally, individuals can bring actions against the government for harm it has done. This includes grounds on the basis of a breach of regulations, legislation on matters beyond their competence, or violation of an individual's rights. These last two points are often protected under a country's constitution.

Procedural law
Procedural law concerns the areas of law that regulates the legal process. This includes who can have access to the court system, how complaints are submitted, and what the rights of the parties involved are. Procedural law is often known as "adjective" law as it is the law that concerns how other laws are to be applied. Typically, this is broadly covered by a government’s civil and criminal procedure rules. But this equally includes the law of evidence which determines what means are used to prove facts, as well as the law regarding remedies.

International law
International law governs the relations between states, or between citizens of different states, or international organizations. Its two primary sources are customary law and treaties.

Philosophy of law - Contents

Philosophy of law is a branch of philosophy and jurisprudence which studies basic questions about law and legal systems, such as "What is the law?", "What are the criteria for legal validity?", "What is the relationship between law and morality?" and many other similar questions.In the Western tradition there are several schools of thought on the philosophical basis of law. First, there is natural law, which attempts to describe law as an inherent quality in humans that is derived from nature. Second, there is the positivism which believes that law is a purely human-made construct that society uses to maintain social order. Third, there is legal realism which believes that law is an arbitrary set of rules that are largely established through the tastes and preferences of judges. Legal interpretivism is a contemporary theory of law different from positivism and natural law.

Anthropology of law - Contents

Law has an anthropological dimension. It has been recognized from Montesquieu to the present that law is shaped by the kind of society in which it is practised.One continuum into which various societies can be placed contrasts the "culture of law" with the "culture of honour". In order to have a culture of law, people must dwell in a society where a government exists whose authority is both hard to evade and generally recognised as legitimate. People take their grievances before the government and its agents, who arbitrate disputes and enforce penalties. This behaviour is contrasted with the culture of honour, where respect for persons and groups stems from fear of the revenge they may exact if their person, property, or prerogatives are not respected.Cultures of law must be maintained. They can be eroded by declining respect for the law, achieved either by weak government unable to wield its authority, or by burdensome restrictions that attempt to forbid behaviour prevalent in the culture or in some subculture of the society. When a culture of law declines, there is a possibility that a culture of honor will arise in its place.The distinction between cultures of law and cultures of honour is anthropological; it does not concern directly philosophy of law nor an internal viewpoint of law. In cultures of honour, most people will agree that they have a law. For most purposes, legal philosophers will also call their rules "law".

Practice of law - Contents

Practice of law is typically overseen by either a government organization or independent regulating body such as a bar association or barrister society. To practice law--i.e., appear in front of a judge on behalf of someone, draft legal documents, etc.--the practitioner must be certified by the regulating body. This usually entails a two or three-year program at a university’s faculty of law or a law school, which earns the student either an LLB or a JD degree. This course of study is followed by an entrance examination (e.g., bar admission). Advanced law degrees are also often pursued, though they are academic degrees and are not required for the practice of law. These include a Masters of Law (LLM), a Master of Legal Studies (MLS), and a Doctor of the Science of Law (JSD).Once accredited, a legal practitioner will often work in a law firm, as well as in government, a private corporation or even work as a sole practitioner. Another option is to become a legal researcher, which provides on demand legal research like significant component to the practice of law in the common law tradition involves legal research in order to determine the current state of the law. This usually entails exploring case reporters, legal periodicals, and legislation. The same is true in civilian systems when the interpretation of the law is not clear.
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