Law is a set of rules that govern the behavior of people. They are often based on social customs and norms, and they are not always defined by clear written laws.
Historically, law has been divided into four principle classes: statute, natural law, positive law, and public law. Statutes are enacted by governments, and they are typically written into the country’s constitution. They usually provide the rules judges must follow when making decisions on cases.
Common law, a system that relies on the decision of courts, is used in many countries. It is often referred to as the “law of the land.”
Civil law systems, also called continental or Romano-Germanic legal systems, cover about 60% of the world. They are largely based on concepts, categories, and rules derived from Roman law, with some influence of canon law.
They have been secularized over the centuries and placed more focus on individual freedom. They are sometimes influenced by local custom and culture, but the main difference between civil and common law is that civil law has more emphasis on cooperation than common law.
Definitions of law vary widely from one place to the next, but they all tend to agree that law is a means to an end, rather than a goal in itself. This means that the ends of law are not just the protection of rights, but the securing of social justice as well.
The purpose of law is to serve as a social institution, to satisfy social needs and wants, and to balance competing interests. Some jurists regard the function of law as a form of social engineering, while others view it more as an instrument for social progress.
Law is an essential component of any society and can be found in most every aspect of daily life. It provides structure, stability, consistency, boundaries and consequences.
Some of the most important areas of law are property, labour and criminal law. Property law is the study of ownership, possession and use of land and other objects. It includes such things as mortgages, rents, licences and covenants.
Labour law involves the tripartite relationship between workers, employers and trade unions and includes collective bargaining regulations and the right to strike. It is also the area of law that deals with workplace rights, such as pay and health and safety.
Evidence law is a field of law that deals with what materials can be admitted in court to build a case. It also deals with how the court will rule on the validity of evidence in a trial or appeal.
A third theory of the function of law is that it consists of just and reasonable duties to respect and safeguard others, but that these duties are not owed to individuals. This theory is sometimes called the “demand theory of rights” and is supported by some jurists, including Joel Feinberg and Stephen Darwall.