Law is a body of rules that governs human interactions. Its purpose is to create order, ensure freedom and security for individuals and groups and protect property and rights. Law also imposes accountability on government and private actors. This accountability is particularly important in modern societies where the scale and scope of state power is larger than ever before.
Legal studies is the discipline that teaches how to study, interpret and make laws. It covers a wide range of subjects, including history of law, legal philosophy, jurisprudence, public law, criminal law and tort law. Law also includes a wide array of subfields that focus on particular areas of law.
One major area is civil law, which deals with disputes between individuals, such as a lawsuit over the ownership of a piece of land. Another area is administrative law, which governs the activities of government agencies and departments.
Criminal law is the area of law that prosecutes crimes committed by individuals, such as murder and treason. The discipline also includes fields such as constitutional law, criminal procedure and evidence.
The law is governed by a variety of institutions, such as the courts and police. These are usually supervised by a centralized authority, such as the president or parliament of a country. Some of these institutions are independent, while others are largely controlled by the state, or in some cases by the religious establishment.
Some laws are made through the legislature, while others are made through executive or judicial action. In common law systems, decisions by courts are acknowledged as “law” and placed on equal footing with statutes passed through the legislative process. This is because of the doctrine of stare decisis, or the principle that court decisions bind lower courts and future judges.
Civil and constitutional law are generally considered to be the core areas of law, but other areas include competition law, copyright law, patent law and labour law. Other specialised areas of law may be tax law, bankruptcy law or maritime law.
A person who works in the field of law is called a lawyer. Lawyers are required to pass a written exam and go through years of training before they are allowed to represent clients. Laws are made by governments, but they also depend on the mental operations of humans. This means that they cannot comprise precepts that are impossible to achieve or force people to do things beyond their capabilities. This is why there are limits on the law. For example, no one can be forced to sign a contract that is against their faith. The law must respect free choice and the dignity of all people. It must be based on a clear and accessible system of rules that is stable and applied evenly. It must also protect personal liberty, property rights and procedural rights. The law must be publicized and accessible, and it must be administered by qualified officials and neutrals who reflect the diversity of the population.