What is the law? Basically, the law is the set of rules that enables the members of a society to live and work together in reasonable harmony and to settle their disputes without violence. Some laws are in the form of written constitutions or statutes; others are legal principles that have arisen over the years from custom, experience, and common acceptance.
Law is not confined to courts and legislatures. It pervades our day-to-day relationships with our families, our neighbors, the people we deal with on our jobs, and the members of our community.
When you pick up the phone and order something from a store, you make a contract governed by the law of sales. When you drive your car, you are subject to traffic laws and the laws of negligence and liability.
Your wages and working conditions depend on your contract with your employer, perhaps a union contract, and federal and state labor laws. When a couple marries or a child is born, the law establishes the rights and duties of family members.
When a person dies, the law determines who gets his or her property and who will care for the children. Even as you sleep at night, you are protected by laws against burglary and trespass – and perhaps by zoning laws that prevent a boiler factory from being built next door.
Most of the time we attend to our everyday affairs without running into any legal problems. Inevitably, though, conflicts arise. The goods we order fail to arrive, or they are unsatisfactory. Accidents happen and people are injured.
Disputes arise between employers and employees, or between landlords and tenants. Families break up or fight among themselves about inheritance or other rights. The person with no knowledge of the law may find that he has put himself in a weak legal position or incurred legal obligations that he never intended.
Unscrupulous persons may take advantage of him, or he may simply not know what his rights are or what to do about them.