Law (from Latin legum, meaning “rule”) is a set of rules that governs human behavior. It is created and enforced by social or governmental institutions, with its precise definition a matter of longstanding debate.
In a nation, the law can serve to keep the peace, maintain the status quo, preserve individual rights, protect minorities against majorities, promote social justice, and provide for orderly social change. Some legal systems do a better job of these tasks than others.
Some common types of laws include:
Constitutional law refers to the legal rules that form the foundation of a government and shape the policies it pursues. This includes such things as the right of citizens to a fair trial, or of businesses to a free market economy.
Administrative law is the study of a government’s power to regulate businesses, including the right to control prices and regulations that affect market competition. This is a subject that covers a broad range of areas, from labor relations to consumer protection and environmental law.
Civil law refers to the legal rules that govern the relationship between a person and another, including such issues as property ownership, marriage and divorce. It also encompasses contracts and evidence law.
Criminal law involves a person’s right to defend themselves against prosecution in court, and their right to have their crime punished. This can include criminal charges, a trial and appeals.
Lawyers are professionals who advise people on the law, represent them in court, and give decisions and punishments. They are usually regulated by government or independent bodies such as a bar association or law society.