Law is a system of rules that regulates the behavior of people within a community or country. Its precise definition is a matter of debate and differs depending on the approach taken. For example, some scholars define law as the set of rules imposed by social or governmental institutions to control human activities. This is known as the normative approach to law. Others, such as the neo-realist school of sociological jurisprudence, see law as a social construct that consists of the various practices and principles through which people interact in society.
The main functions of law are to keep the peace, maintain the status quo, protect individual rights, ensure fairness and justice, and allow for orderly social change. Some legal systems are better at achieving these goals than others. For example, an authoritarian regime may be able to keep the peace and preserve order but it will not protect minorities or provide for social justice.
Despite its broad scope, law is divided into numerous branches such as contract law, criminal law, and property law. Each of these has its own specialized terminology and is used to govern different types of transactions or interactions. For example, contract law relates to agreements made between people, while criminal law deals with violations of certain precepts that are considered crimes in the eyes of the state.
The word “law” is also used to describe the profession of a lawyer, which involves advising and representing clients in court. For more information on this career, see the articles: legal profession and law firm.