Law is a system of rules created and enforced through social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior. It may be enacted by a legislature, creating statutes, or established through judges establishing precedent in common law jurisdictions. In addition, laws can be created by private individuals, such as contracts, creating legally binding agreements. Law can also refer to a set of principles or standards of conduct that are considered ethical, moral or religious, such as the laws of the Catholic Church.
The law is the foundation for a well-ordered society and serves many goals, including guaranteeing that all people are treated fairly, that there are boundaries for personal freedoms and that property and other resources are protected. It also serves to resolve disputes and conflicts, preventing them from escalating to violence. The law relates to the conduct of both citizens and government employees, including police officers and public officials. It also encompasses the legal rights of corporations and individuals, such as the right to privacy, property ownership and free speech.
While the precise definition of law is a matter of debate, it is generally accepted that it includes an order of rules imposed on individuals or groups to control their actions and maintain social order. It is distinguished from other systems of rule, such as the rules and customs of a particular religion or ethnic group, which are often referred to as folk law.
In the most general sense, law can be divided into two categories: criminal and civil. Criminal law covers crimes against other people, such as theft or murder, while civil law covers cases between individuals, such as torts (damages for the wrongs done to an individual, such as a car accident or defamation).
It is important to understand that the laws are not just written documents but also include the social and ethical norms that guide their interpretation and enforcement. This makes the study of law highly complex from a methodology perspective, which is why it is considered a discipline within its own right.
The practice of law is overseen by both governments and independent regulating bodies, such as a bar council or law society. Lawyers must also meet certain professional qualifications, such as undergoing specific legal education and passing an examination, in order to become licensed to practice law. They are sometimes known by respectable titles such as Esquire, or Barrister, for advocates, and Doctor of Law, for those who have obtained a PhD in Law. They are also required to follow strict ethical codes in their daily work. The law provides a rich source of scholarly inquiry, covering topics such as legal history, philosophy and economic analysis. It is an extremely diverse subject area that touches almost every aspect of life. For example, labour law concerns the tripartite relationship between worker, employer and trade union; property law deals with the ownership of land or other resources; and evidence law is concerned with which materials are admissible in court.