Law is a set of rules that governs how people and groups can behave. These can be made by governments and can include regulations that protect individuals from harm, or laws that prohibit certain behavior. Examples of laws can include laws against stealing, murder and drunk driving.
Law also includes the professional services of lawyers and judges, and is the study of systems and methods of making and enforcing legal decisions. Lawyers are the practitioners of the law, and are responsible for defending their clients’ rights and securing justice in court.
Lawyers and judges work in the government, private business, and in the nonprofit sector. They represent individuals and businesses in a variety of areas, including contracts, property, employment and criminal law.
The term “law” can refer to a particular set of rules, or to all the laws that exist in a nation.
A country’s laws can keep peace, maintain the status quo, protect minorities against majorities, preserve individual rights and promote social justice, but they may also oppress people or cause problems. Some nations have better-adapted legal systems than others, depending on their culture and political system.
Laws are the foundation for a society and form the basis of many human rights. They are vital to economic and social development, as well as to international peace and security.
Legislation is often the primary mechanism of lawmaking, but there are other forms of law, such as a constitution or a code of laws, which embody the principles that guide the lawmaking process and which may be influenced by the values and interests of a community. They can also serve as a guide to interpreting existing laws and developing new ones.
Regulation and judicial activism are also important elements of lawmaking and lawmaking institutions. For example, courts have the power to enforce law and order and to make sure that public resources are used appropriately.
A legal system is a framework of rules that are applied evenly and fairly by government as well as by private actors. This ensures that citizens have access to public services and are protected against the abuse of power by government, and enables them to pursue their rights and freedoms.
Law is a broad and complex discipline, spread into almost every area of life. It encompasses subjects as diverse as labour law, contract law and intellectual property, but generally has three core categories: civil procedure, criminal procedure and evidence law.
Civil procedure focuses on the rules that judges and courts must follow as they proceed in the course of a trial or appeal. This includes procedures such as the selection of jurors and how evidence is admissible in a case.
Criminal law involves crimes against the state or a particular group of people, such as murder, theft and drunk driving. It is the responsibility of a nation’s law to prevent or punish people who break the laws, rather than to reward good behavior.
The practice of law is regulated by either government or independent regulating bodies such as bar associations, bar councils or law societies. Modern lawyers achieve distinct professional identity through specified legal procedures and are required to have a special qualification (e.g. a Bachelor of Laws, a Bachelor of Civil Law or a Juris Doctor degree).