Law is a set of rules created and enforced by social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior within a given territory. Its precise definition is a matter of longstanding debate. In general, law is a system of rules and regulations governing activities ranging from business to crime to social relationships to property to finance. The purpose of law is to help keep society orderly and safe. It also provides a system for resolving conflicts between people and between nations.
The most common law definition is a body of rules and practices sanctioned by authority that governs human conduct in a particular region or community. Other law definitions include a set of principles that determine what is considered fair or unfair; or a system that establishes standards for behavior, maintains order, resolves disputes, and protects liberties and rights.
Most people agree that there are four principal purposes of law: establishing standards, maintaining order, resolving conflict and protecting liberties and rights. The extent to which a legal system accomplishes these functions varies widely from nation to nation. For example, an authoritarian government may keep the peace and maintain the status quo but may oppress minorities or political opponents. In contrast, a democratic country may serve the same purposes but will not necessarily guarantee equal justice for all its citizens.
A slew of terms are used in discussing the nature of law, including:
alimony – A monetary award paid by a spouse to a former partner after divorce or legal separation.
assassination – An attempt to kill someone by killing their accomplice, a witness or the person who hired the assassin.
discovery – The examination, before trial, of facts and documents in the possession of the opponents to a lawsuit.
incriminate – To prove something that tends to show guilt or wrongdoing; to make a person feel guilty.
en banc – “In the bench”; means that the whole court is present instead of a regular quorum. When the US courts of appeals meet en banc, it means that the entire court is reviewing a case that they deem to be important enough to require their full participation.
The law is an area of study with many subfields. Law students generally learn about criminal, constitutional, and family law; as well as business, contract, and international laws. In addition, they receive training in a variety of legal skills, including research and writing, evidence presentation, arguing in court, and case analysis.
The law is an integral part of the structure of a society and must be balanced with the rights and freedoms of its citizens. The study of the law is therefore an important aspect of any education in the humanities or social sciences. Law is often considered to be a natural science, but it is also viewed as an art and a philosophy. Some of the most famous lawyers include: