What Is Law?


Law is a system of rules created and enforced through social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior. Its precise nature and contents are debated. Its aims range from punishment of criminals to ensuring that people adhere to the social contract or principles of justice. Laws may be enacted by collective legislatures through statutes, decrees or regulations; or they can be made by the executive through decrees and orders or established by courts through precedent. Laws governing a particular nation or community are often encoded in a constitution, whether written or tacit.

In a modern state, laws can be influenced by and evolve through an intricate web of judicial interpretation and creative jurisprudence. Legal systems generally include rules that ensure supremacy of law, equality before the law and accountability for the exercise of power; separation of powers and participation in decision-making; a clear expression of rights and duties; the avoidance of arbitrariness; procedural transparency; and the absence of bias.

Some of the branches of law that exist in most jurisdictions include tort law (damages caused to persons or property), contract law (agreements involving goods and services), constitutional law, administrative law, criminal law, land law, and family law. Other areas of law include bankruptcy, intellectual property, civil rights, and company and corporate law. In addition, the specialized fields of criminal and civil trial law, immigration, public defense, and probate are examples of subfields of law.

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