Law is the set of rules that a particular community or place recognizes as regulating its members and which is enforced by a controlling authority. Law encompasses many diverse fields of study, such as criminal justice; contracts and business; property law; intellectual property laws (like copyright); and even the legal system itself. Law is a major part of the fabric of society, and it influences and informs everyday life in countless ways.
The primary functions of law are establishing standards, maintaining order, resolving disputes, and protecting liberties and rights. The precise definition of law varies by nation, but most societies have some kind of legal system that defines what kinds of activities are illegal and how people can be legally punished for these crimes. Law serves many important purposes, and its importance has been recognized by philosophers, historians, economists, sociologists, psychologists, and other social scientists.
In a society that relies on law for much of its functioning, the ability to understand and interpret it is essential. For this reason, the study of Law is a highly specialized field. Law is not only a collection of rules, but also an evolving process that changes over time as new cases and rulings come into effect. For this reason, the legal system itself has a lot in common with the scientific method, which requires constant scrutiny and updating as knowledge is gained.
A central part of Law is the judicial branch, which is comprised of judges who resolve legal disputes and decide whether people who are charged with crimes are guilty or innocent. Judges are human, and their judgements can be flawed, but the fixed principles of the Law help to ensure that the administration of justice is not influenced by the whims of individual judges. This is why, for example, most places have a jury system that involves citizens who are sworn on oath to investigate the facts of a case and find the guilt or innocence of a person accused of a crime.
Other important aspects of the Law are administrative law, which relates to how governments operate; family law; international law; and tort law, which enables people to make claims for damages when they have been hurt by someone else’s actions. In addition, there are numerous specialized fields of Law that address issues in specific industries or areas of society, such as medical law and patent law.