Law is the system of rules that a society or government develops in order to deal with crime, business agreements and social relationships. It also refers to the people who work in this system.
In a nation, the law serves to keep the peace, maintain the status quo, protect individual rights, and promote social justice. Some legal systems serve these purposes better than others, but some nations have failed to fulfill the principal functions of law.
Several aspects of law are related to the government and the economy, including criminal law, family law, immigration laws, and taxation. Some of these are enforced by the government, while others are voluntary.
The term law is usually derived from the Latin word lege, meaning “rights” or “laws,” and the Greek word kyr
There are a wide range of legal systems in the world, from ancient to contemporary. Often, these systems are based on principles and concepts from other cultures.
Examples of this include the tenets of Islam, Judaism and Christianity, which provide the foundation for many modern legal systems. Other examples are Chinese, Indian and European traditions.
Some countries, such as Canada and Australia, have a unique set of laws, while others follow a common law tradition. In the US, for example, a law is a set of statutory regulations or other legal documents that sets forth what people can and cannot do.
Another way to think of a law is as a document, such as a constitution, that codifies how certain things should be done in a country. It can be enacted by a legislative body or an independent regulatory agency such as a court.
Typically, a statute must meet two legal tests to be valid: due process and compelling interest. Under the former, a law must be reasonable in terms of what it does and how it does it. Under the latter, economic legislation must demonstrate a reasonable relationship between what it does and what the public benefits from it.
There are many different fields that fall under the umbrella of law, such as constitutional law, corporate law, family law, and environmental law. The legal profession includes attorneys and judges who are responsible for interpreting, administering and enforcing laws.
Professional lawyers are distinguished by their distinct legal education and specialized knowledge of particular legal areas. They may earn a Bachelor of Laws or a Juris Doctor degree. They are governed by a legal body such as a bar association or law society.
They are regulated by legal procedures, such as passing exams or achieving specific qualifications to become licensed. Lawyers can practice in a variety of areas, such as bankruptcy, estate planning, and international law.
Law is a complex subject, and the field of study is vast. This encyclopedia offers authoritative, accessible information on the major terms, concepts and processes of this discipline, including law and governance, civil law, criminal law, international law, property law, taxation, and more. It is written by trusted experts for researchers at every level, and is complemented by charts and chronologies wherever useful.