Law is the set of social and governmental rules enforced by institutions and which govern the behavior of individuals or groups. These laws are created by legislatures through statutory statutes, by the executive through decrees and regulations or established by judges through precedent (called stare decisis) in common law legal systems. There are a number of branches of law, such as contracts, property, criminal and civil laws. Law shapes politics, economics and history in many ways and defines people’s relationships with each other.
Some of the most fundamental aspects of law involve the principles of equity, fairness and justice. These include the principle that all persons are equal before the law, that all are treated impartially and that core human, procedural and property rights are enshrined in the law. These principles are a basis for many of the social and ethical decisions that a society must make.
In some societies, the law is highly complex. In these, a great deal of the study of law revolves around attempting to understand the reasons behind legal choices and decisions made by those who administer the law. A major question is whether it is possible to achieve a more objective and less biased system of law.
The law is often viewed as a branch of social science, although its precise definition remains a subject of debate. The field of study is also sometimes referred to as jurisprudence, meaning “the science of the law”.
Those who work in the field of law are governed by a code of professional ethics. This code sets out the minimum standards that are expected of those who work in the profession and includes a duty to act with honesty, integrity and diligence.
It is important that people have confidence in the law and feel safe to report any wrongdoing. This requires that a state demonstrates that its laws are clear, accessible and easy to understand. It is also essential that people can be confident that they will face consequences for committing offences, regardless of their wealth or status in society.
The legal system is an integral part of most modern economies, and it can be divided into civil and criminal laws. The former relates to matters that can be settled in courts, such as disputes over contracts or inheritance. The latter deals with crimes committed against the state and the punishments that may be imposed for these offences. Many countries have a standardized civil law system, but other nations follow common law systems that leave the decision of what constitutes a crime to individual judges and barristers. In some countries, religious law plays a role in the settling of secular disputes. This is the case for Jewish Halakha and Islamic Sharia, as well as Christian canon law.