Law is a system of rules created and enforced through social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior. Its precise definition is a matter of longstanding debate and has been described as both a science and an art. Laws can be made by a collective legislature through statutes, decrees and regulations, or by individual judges through binding precedent, especially in common law jurisdictions. Private individuals can also create legal contracts, which have the force of law if they are enforceable in court. The purposes of law are to impose standards, maintain order, resolve disputes and protect liberty and rights. Governments that are not democratic may impose laws for these and other reasons, such as keeping the peace or maintaining the status quo in a country and oppressing minorities or political opponents (see dictatorship; military rule; state terrorism).
The legal profession is concerned with advising people about the law and representing them in court. The discipline of law studies systems of law and how they work, and the practice of law is a career in which many people choose to specialise.
A law school is an educational institution that trains students to become lawyers or other professionals regulated by the legal professions’ bodies. The teaching of law is often accompanied by a strong emphasis on philosophy and history, as well as a broad general education in subjects such as biology, chemistry, mathematics, economics and literature.
Jury – A group of people selected to hear and decide cases before courts, typically in criminal or civil trials. In some countries, juries are made up of members of the public; in others they are selected from among professional lawyers or other judges.
Chief judge – A judge with primary responsibility for the administration of a court, including managing the flow of cases and maintaining court records. Usually the choice of chief judges is determined by seniority. circumstantial evidence – Evidence that does not prove a point beyond a reasonable doubt, such as witness testimony or documents. court of appeals – A higher level of appellate court that can review decisions made by district or superior courts, and is bound by the decisions of those higher courts unless they are overturned for compelling reason or significantly different facts.
discovery – Lawyers’ examination, before trial, of facts and documents in the possession of the opposing party. This helps them prepare for trial. court of appeals, en banc – A full bench of judges rather than the usual panel of three.
Tort law provides compensation when a person or their property are harmed, whether by an automobile accident or defamation of character. Offenses against the federal, state or local community itself are covered by criminal law, which provides for punishment of the offender. Labor law and family law are examples of other fields in which laws exist to protect the interests of the public. Regulation concerns the use of natural resources such as land and water by companies doing business in these sectors.