The Basics of Law

Law is a set of rules that are created and enforced by social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior. Law is a complex subject that covers many different fields, including contract law; criminal law; family law; property law; and tort law.

Legal systems vary around the world, from autocracies to socialist democracies. Regardless of their structure, all laws must serve the general goals of keeping the peace; maintaining the status quo; preserving individual rights; protecting minorities against majorities; promoting social justice; and providing an orderly mechanism for adjusting to changes in society.

The law is governed by a variety of institutions and processes, from the Constitution to a court of appeals. The Constitution establishes fundamental principles such as the separation of powers and the rule of law, while a legislative body passes statutes and a supreme court interprets those statutes. The courts also determine what constitutes a crime, as well as establish and enforce civil rights and liberties.

The law is often referred to as an art and as a science. The art of the law involves interpreting and constructing the legal system, while the science of the law is the study of the methods and procedures that the court uses to decide cases. Other articles in this section explore the specifics of legal practice and procedure, including case law; court procedures; constitutional law; criminal law; and evidence law. A law degree can be obtained at a variety of universities, including LSU’s School of Law, which offers a 3+3 program that allows students to earn both a bachelor’s and a law degree in six years.