The Basics of Law

Law is the system of rules that a country or community accepts and enforces to regulate behavior. These rules may be made by a group legislature, resulting in statutes; by the executive branch, in decrees and regulations; or through precedent established by judges. Private individuals can also create legally binding contracts and arbitration agreements that adopt alternative dispute resolution mechanisms to standard court litigation. A nation’s laws may be created for a variety of purposes, including keeping peace, maintaining the status quo, preserving individual rights, protecting minorities from majorities, and providing social justice.

The study of law is called jurisprudence, and there are many different fields of legal practice. The most common include administrative law, criminal law, family law, and civil law. Administrative law concerns the way that government agencies function, including their authority and power to make rules and regulations. Criminal law deals with crimes against people and property, including murder, robbery, burglary, and treason. Civil law covers lawsuits between people and businesses, and includes such areas as contract law, property law, and tort law (those cases involving claims of negligence, unfair trade practices, and breach of fiduciary duty).

Other branches of law concern specific types of activities or issues. Banking law, for example, sets minimum standards for bank deposits, while financial regulation helps insure against economic crises like the stock market crash of 1929. Property law defines people’s rights and duties toward their tangible property, such as land and buildings. Labor law governs working conditions and pay scales, and employment law protects employees’ rights in the workplace. Tort law covers a variety of civil wrongs, from car accidents to defamation.

Another area of law is constitutional law, which concerns the constitution and its separation of powers. There is also tax law, which encompasses the various taxes and deductions that are imposed on individuals and businesses. Other areas of law include patents, copyrights, and trademarks. The term lawyer is often used to refer to a person who practices law, but there are other titles of respect, such as Esquire to indicate a barrister, and Doctor of Law to signify a university degree in this field. The study of law is a vital part of our society, and it’s important for all citizens to understand the basics of how our system of law works. It’s also a good idea to keep abreast of changes to the law, as these can affect our daily lives in a number of ways. To learn more about law, we recommend our Oxford Dictionary of Law. It contains concise definitions and in-depth, specialist encyclopedic entries by trusted experts. Our entries are written for researchers of all levels and include helpful charts and timelines. It’s the ideal reference for all those interested in learning about this complex subject.