What is Law?

A set of rules created and enforced by social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior. Its precise definition is a matter of longstanding debate. It has been variously described as a science and as the art of justice.

The law may govern a wide range of activities and issues. It may deal with contracts, property or crime, for example. It may regulate the work of a lawyer and determine which materials are admissible in court. It can even determine what is considered a reasonable response to an unreasonable request.

While laws vary from one nation to another, there are some fundamental principles and concepts that are common to all legal systems. These are:

The main purposes of law are to establish standards, maintain order, resolve disputes and protect rights and liberties. The legal system serves these purposes best when it is accessible to all citizens, is clear and transparent in its application and can adapt to changing social conditions through the development of rich jurisprudence.

Each country has its own legal tradition, but most are based on a mix of custom, culture and the law as it has evolved through judicial decisions. The law is a highly complex subject and has many different branches, such as tort law (which covers damages in cases where people or their property are harmed), contract law, criminal law and family law, for example. Some areas of the law are specialized, such as labour law, which includes the tripartite industrial relationship between worker, employer and trade union; constitutional law; or evidence law, which deals with what is permitted to be presented in a court case.

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