What Is Law?

Law is a general term for the set of rules that a society creates and enforces to regulate behavior. It includes everything from contracts and property to criminal and civil rights. Most nations use a system of laws based on either common or civil law. In common law systems, laws are based on judicial decisions made in court cases and compiled into legal codes called case law. In contrast, some countries, such as Japan, use a civil law system that codifies their legal principles into law books and does not consider judicial decisions binding.

A person who commits a crime is considered to have broken the law, even though that rule may not be written down. The term may also be used more broadly to describe a group of laws, such as all the laws of a country. The law is enforced by a controlling authority, which usually means that people who break the rules face punishment.

The law has many purposes, but four of them are especially important: establishing standards, maintaining order, resolving disputes, and protecting liberties and rights. It is important that people know and understand the law so they can participate in a democratic society. To do this, the law must be easily accessible and understandable. This is often difficult, particularly in areas of law that have a high number of clients with an interest in the subject matter. Articles in these fields often have more technical language and can take a position on controversial changes to legislation.

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