The law is a set of rules that a particular country or community recognizes as regulating the actions of its people. Laws may be created and enforced by social or governmental institutions to keep the peace, maintain the status quo, protect minorities from majorities, ensure equality, or facilitate orderly social change. Some legal systems serve some of these goals better than others. For example, an authoritarian government may be able to keep the peace and maintain the status quo, but it may oppress minorities or prevent social change.
The study of law encompasses a broad range of subjects, from criminal and constitutional law to family and labor law. The law also involves the different branches of government and how they interact with one another as well as the judicial system. It also includes the major debates in legal theory.
Law can refer to a specific body of rules, such as the code of Hammurabi, or it can be used more broadly to refer to all of a nation’s laws. Some laws are based on religious beliefs or books, such as the Jewish Halakha, Islamic Sharia, and Christian Canon law. Others are based on cultural traditions, such as the customary practice of the family or community in a given area.
When a person breaks a law, they are often punished for it. A court might fine the offender or imprison them. A judge makes a decision about a case by examining the evidence and applying the law to the facts of the situation. Judges usually write an opinion that explains why they have made their decision. Their opinions can be used as a guide to future judges.
The main branches of law include administrative, constitutional, criminal, and civil law. Criminal law focuses on stopping people from breaking the law, while civil law deals with disputes between individuals or organizations. Constitutional law relates to the most important rights of a nation, including the separation of powers between the different branches of government.
There are many fields of law, such as adolescent and juvenile law, aviation law, bankruptcy law, family law, health care law, medical jurisprudence, real estate law, and tax law. Each field has its own governing bodies and regulations.
A lawyer, jurist or attorney is a professional who studies and argues the rules of law. They might specialize in a certain area of law, or they might choose to practice in general civil or criminal courts. Lawyers can also be divided into “transactional” attorneys who prepare contracts and documents, and litigators who defend or prosecute cases in court. A judge is a government official who decides lawsuits brought before the courts.