Law (plural: laws) is the system of rules that governs how people live and behave. It also describes the legal institutions, such as courts, that enforce these rules and determine rights and responsibilities.
In a democratic society, the rule of law is governed by a government and its judiciary. It is designed to protect human rights, provide for a fair process of justice, and ensure that all members of the community are treated equally before the law.
The legal system in most developed countries consists of many separate specialised areas. This includes civil law, commercial law, and criminal law. It also includes the law of contract, property, and other matters that affect everyday life.
Civil law deals with relationships between individuals, including contracts between individuals or businesses and the state. It focuses on the creation of private rights such as inheritance and divorce, and on the protection of human life and personal liberty. Its principles, as they are defined by law, differ from those of natural law, which emphasize a set of unchanging, innate laws that govern how individuals should behave in certain situations.
Commercial law is a wide area of practice that covers the rules of business transactions, such as contracts, sales, and financing. It grew out of the medieval system of Lex Mercatoria and has grown into a complex area of law.
Corporate law is a subset of business law that covers how companies can be formed and operated. It also deals with such topics as the formation of partnerships, limited liability companies, and joint ventures.
Corporations are entities that have a legal personality, a set of rights and obligations. These are enumerated in a corporation’s articles of incorporation and bylaws.
Lawyers are people who are professionally qualified to give advice about the law and represent their clients in court. They typically achieve professional identity through a specific legal process, such as being admitted to the bar.
Attorneys and judges are the most common types of lawyers, but there are also other professionals involved in the legal system. For example, probation officers work to release convicted offenders under conditions of supervision.
Judges are government officials with authority to decide lawsuits. The government employs attorneys to try cases on behalf of the government, while public defenders work for individuals who cannot afford to hire an attorney.
Jurisprudence is the study of law, including the history of it and the structure of the legal system. This study is usually done by a judge, but a law clerk or a librarian can also do this work.
Trial – A hearing in which the plaintiff and defendant present evidence to a jury, and the court makes a decision on the case.
Judgment – The official decision of the court that finally binds the parties to a lawsuit.
Jurisdiction – The geographic area over which a court has authority to hear and decide a case.
Binding precedent – A previous decision by a court that must be followed without a compelling reason or significantly different facts or issues.