A body of rules created and enforced by a place or authority to regulate conduct, often with the threat of penalties. Law is also the discipline and profession concerned with the study of these rules.
In the sense of a set of social rules, laws are typically based on traditions and customs, although some may be imposed by a controlling authority. A law may be a constitutional, statutory, or common-law rule. A legal code is a collection of laws, and there are different types of laws that cover such areas as property, contract, criminal, family, international, and labor law.
Regardless of how a law is established, the primary purpose is to protect people’s freedom and liberties by limiting the actions that individuals or groups can take. Laws are important because they establish standards, maintain order, resolve disputes, and ensure that everyone has access to basic services.
The most fundamental type of law is a constitution, which is the set of rules that a country uses to govern itself. Constitutional laws are generally passed by legislatures (legislators), whereas statutory laws come from administrative agencies or courts of law. Common-law systems rely on court decisions to create rules, while civil law systems use written codes of law to guide judges.
Many other laws are derived from tradition and customs, such as family and social habits or religion. Religious books like the Vedas, Bible, and Koran are also considered law in some cultures. While these traditions and customs are not strictly legally binding, they are often followed as a law due to their authority.
While laws are important to societies, they can also be restrictive. Some laws may restrict the rights of certain groups or individuals, and these restrictions may be interpreted as discriminatory. Laws that limit the rights of women, minorities, and other groups are commonly viewed as unjust, and efforts to eliminate these kinds of laws are called equality legislation or equal opportunity legislation.
The law can be complex and confusing, as it is constantly changing with new scientific discoveries and changing social attitudes. A lawyer or jurist is a professional who studies and argues the laws of a society, and they can specialize in areas such as tax, international, and labor law. Lawyers can also be involved in preparing and interpreting contracts, and they can be involved in litigation on behalf of clients. Some lawyers focus on transactional work, while others specialize in arguing cases before a judge or jury. A lawyer can be a barrister in the United States, or a solicitor in the UK. A law school is an educational institution that trains students to become lawyers. These schools often require a bachelor’s degree in a subject such as biology, history, or economics, and they may have specializations in specific fields of law. Some law schools offer postgraduate degrees in areas such as intellectual property or the law of corporations. Some law graduates go on to careers as corporate attorneys or public defenders.