The Basics of Law


Law is the system of rules created and enforced by social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior. These rules may be enacted by a legislature, resulting in statutes, or made by judges in a common law jurisdiction through precedent. Laws may cover both private and public activities, encompassing everything from property disputes to criminal offences. The study of these laws is known as jurisprudence.

Law serves several purposes: to establish standards, maintain order, resolve disputes and protect liberty and rights. But there are also many different fields of law: labour law, for instance, involves the tripartite relationship between worker, employer and trade union; civil procedure explains how lawsuits should be conducted; evidence law decides which materials can be used in court; bankruptcy and tax law set standards for financial regulation.

Legal theory debates how law is made and why certain decisions are made. The prevailing theory is that the law is created by the state to resolve conflict between differing groups. The underlying principle is that no one group should be favoured over another.

The most basic law is a constitutional guarantee of fair trial to anyone accused of a crime or of a threat to their liberty. More specialized laws include the law of property, which sets standards for who can own what; the law of contracts and commercial transactions; and the law of torts, which addresses compensation when someone is harmed — such as in an automobile accident or by defamation of character.

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