Law is the system of rules enforceable by social or governmental institutions to regulate behaviour, thereby protecting people’s rights and liberties. The precise definition of the word is contested, but it is generally taken to include laws that govern people’s relationships with one another and with their environment. The law shapes politics, economics and history in a variety of ways.
Legal systems vary, but most countries have a judiciary that interprets and applies the law. Law is commonly categorized into several broad subjects:
Contract law defines people’s agreements to trade goods, services and other items of value. Criminal law deals with violations of people’s basic freedoms, such as theft or murder. The law of torts provides compensation for damages to victims who have been harmed by someone else’s actions. Law of property sets people’s rights and duties toward tangible property, such as land or cars, and intangible property such as bank accounts and shares of stock.
Law also includes the rules that determine whether a person’s legal claims are valid. The legal concept of justification involves grounding a claim in other legal norms, such as that everyone has a right to their good name. Legal institutions also set the minimum standards for evidence to be admissible in court. The modern legal profession is regulated by law, which requires that lawyers pass a professional examination and maintain a distinct identity from their clients through specific legal procedures (e.g. a law degree, bar admission). Those who advise people on legal matters are often called lawyers or solicitors.