Law is a system of rules created and enforced by social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior. It may be imposed by a constitution, either written or tacit, by decrees and regulations issued by the executive branch of government, or established through judicial decision via precedent in common law jurisdictions. Individuals may also create legally binding contracts. The law governs many aspects of people’s lives, from the sale of goods to the distribution of property in divorce cases. In general, laws are meant to protect the rights of individuals and promote social justice. In the past, some countries used their law to maintain peace, preserve the status quo, oppress minorities, and restrict social change. In contrast, other nations used their law to spread democracy and economic development, often with mixed results.
A broad range of legal fields exist, covering everything from property to terrorism to corporate taxation to AIDS legislation. The field of contract law, for example, deals with the exchange of goods and services, from buying a bus ticket to trading options on the stock market. Criminal law, in turn, regulates conduct that is considered harmful to society and provides for punishments ranging from fines to imprisonment. In addition, civil law resolves lawsuits between individuals and organizations.
Generally, the law is written down to provide guidance for judges, lawyers, and others who work in the legal profession. The law is a rich source of research for scholars in many disciplines, including history, philosophy, and economic analysis. In particular, the law is complex from a methodological standpoint because normative statements in the law are not as straightforward as descriptive ones in empirical science (such as the law of gravity) or even social science (such as the law of supply and demand).
The term “law” encompasses both formal, legally-enforceable rules and informal practices that have become accepted by a community or an organization. The word’s precise meaning is a matter of ongoing debate. Some scholars argue that the law is not only a set of rules, but also an idea or a concept. In addition, the concept of law entails both an objective and a subjective aspect, according to some scholars.
The law also covers topics such as the structure of a country’s governing body and the nature of a legal career, including its requirements for training. This is the context in which such terms as Esquire, to indicate a barrister of greater dignity, and Doctor of Law (JD) are used to distinguish someone who has studied for a degree in law from an ordinary person. In addition, there are articles on specific areas of the law, such as aviation; agency; air; bankruptcy; carriage of goods; commercial transaction; contract; constitutional law; family; inheritance; labour; maritime; medical jurisprudence; and procedural law.