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What Is the Law?

The law is about drawing lines. On one side of the line, activities are legal. On the other side, they are not legal. It's really that simple. “Hah!” you say, “What about all those attorneys and courts and appeals courts and so on?” The practice of law is about arguing on which side of the line your client's actions reside. Lawyers represent their clients and make their arguments with that motivation. So, a good attorney tries to define the location of the line so that the client is best protected. In court cases, one attorney tries to define the line so that his or her client in a civil proceeding, or the state in a criminal proceeding, is the party that is protected. The opposing attorney does the same for the party he or she represents. The judge tries to make sure that all the attorneys are playing by the rules and presenting those rules to the jury deciding the case, or the judge decides the case based on his own interpretation of the rules. In cases in which someone disagrees with the judge's ruling, the case may be appealed to a higher court.

When your attorney is preparing a sales contract for your home, your attorney is drawing a line for you between things that are your responsibility and those that are the responsibility of the other party, whether buyer or seller. When both parties sign the contract, the contract becomes part of the set of rules that govern the sale. Contracts have a huge body of law and previous decisions included in them already. People have learned over time what kinds of legal problems occur in sales transactions and the previous resolution of those problems has become part of contract law. Many laws address privacy and security concerns also, but in the digital arena that body of law is neither so large nor so well understood as in the contract law example.


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