What Is Law?


Law is a system of rules created and enforced through social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior. Government-enforced laws can be made by a collective legislature, resulting in statutes, or by the executive through decrees and regulations, or established through judges’ decisions (called case law or stare decisis) in common law jurisdictions. Private individuals can also create legally binding contracts. Law includes the fields of criminal law, civil law, corporate law, administrative law and international law.

When a person breaks the law, he or she may be subject to fines or imprisonment. Laws also ensure that people are treated fairly and protect basic individual rights, such as liberty and equality.

The precise nature of law is a topic of debate and has been described as an art, a science and a form of justice. A wide range of tools are used in the practice of law, not just logic: felt necessities, prevalent moral and political theories, intuitions of public policy, avowed or unconscious, even prejudices can play a part in the determination of the rules by which men should be governed.

Some lawyers specialize in specific areas of the law, for example, family or employment law. Others work in particular types of courts, for instance terrorism cases are often heard by special national courts that focus on these issues. In many countries, the laws governing these specialised areas are different to those of other general courts, and these differences are reflected in the style of legal writing.

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