Law is a system of rules created and enforced through social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior. It is often derived from religious precepts and may take the form of written or oral contracts, ordinances, statutes, precedents, or jurisprudence. It may also be derived from a constitution, whether written or tacit, or from an enforceable code of ethics. It is the underlying foundation of any society, and it helps to define the rights, duties, and privileges of people in a given area or time period.
The study of Law encompasses a large variety of subjects, but the core subjects can be classified into three categories. These are criminal, civil and administrative law. Criminal law concerns the punishment of a person found guilty of a crime, whilst civil law involves the resolution of disputes between individuals or groups, typically through litigation.
In most states, the highest authority in the legal system is a supreme court or the highest court of a state. A chief judge oversees the administration of the court, and judges (also known as justices) decide cases brought before them. Appeals are ruled upon by appellate courts, which in turn are bound by the decisions of lower courts with jurisdiction over specific cases.
There is a wide range of laws that govern the conduct and relationship of individuals and groups in societies, from basic human rights to property, immigration and family law. Governmental power, including military and police forces, is a key element of law, and it is important that this is used fairly and with regard for individual liberties. This is a difficult balance to achieve, however, as it can be difficult to separate the legitimate needs of security from the desire for greater freedoms.
A fundamental function of Law is to serve the interests of a nation-state. This includes keeping the peace, preserving the status quo, protecting minorities from majorities and promoting social justice. The political regime of a nation, therefore, has a direct impact on Law as it affects the extent to which these functions can be achieved.
Modern laws are typically shaped by social pressures and a desire to address societal problems, as well as by a need to create economic prosperity. This societal need is particularly evident in the areas of corporate and tax law, which concern the regulation of businesses and the collection of taxes by governments. Labour law, in contrast, is the study of the tripartite industrial relationship between employer, employee and trade union, involving collective bargaining and the right to strike. Evidence law is the study of which materials are admissible in courts for a case to be built, and this is an increasingly significant field. In addition, there are laws governing property, such as land ownership and the rights of tenants. These are all examples of law that help to shape a society and ensure a safe and secure environment. They also provide an opportunity for those with legal qualifications to pursue careers in a field that is intellectually stimulating and financially rewarding.