Law is a system of rules created and enforced through social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior. It has been characterized as an art, a science and as a moral endeavor. Law has an important impact on politics, economics, history and society in general.
In most places, laws are made by the government and citizens must obey them or face punishment. For example, it is illegal to steal in most countries and if you are caught stealing you can be fined or put into jail. The term “law” can also be used to describe a set of all the government’s laws in general, as in “all the laws of this state are against murder.”
Many different systems of law exist. Some are based on religious beliefs, while others have a more empirical or scientific basis. For example, there are laws of physics that apply to the physical world and are based on observations. Other laws are based on moral beliefs or philosophies, such as the principles of karma and reincarnation. The precise definition of law is a matter of ongoing debate.
The practice of law involves advising clients and representing them in court in disputes. Lawyers must have a specific legal education and pass a bar exam to qualify for their profession. The legal field is diverse and includes fields such as civil rights, criminal justice, corporate law, intellectual property, environmental law and tax law.
While it is possible to study the law in universities, most lawyers are trained in the form of apprenticeships with experienced barristers and judges. These apprenticeships are usually regulated by a professional body such as the Bar Council or Law Society, and the qualifications for becoming a lawyer vary widely between jurisdictions.
Some legal fields, such as tort and criminal law, deal with matters that involve private individuals, while other areas, such as labour or administrative law, have a more political focus. A third area, constitutional law, addresses the limits placed on the enumerated powers of governments.
The law is a vast area, covering virtually every aspect of human life. Three broad categories are presented for convenience, though the subjects intertwine and overlap: labour law concerns the tripartite industrial relationship between employee, employer and trade union; contract law is concerned with enforceable agreements between individuals and businesses; and evidence law encompasses what materials are admissible in courts of law. There are also specialist fields such as family, administrative and constitutional law. All these fields are governed by a complex network of legislation, regulations and precedents.