Law is the study of the rules that a country or community recognizes as regulating the actions of its people. It includes the professional activities of lawyers, judges, and government officials who enforce those rules.
In a nation, laws can serve to keep the peace, maintain the status quo, preserve individual rights, protect minorities against majorities, promote social justice, and provide for orderly social change. Some legal systems are better at these goals than others, and they differ from one country to another.
The term “law” is often used interchangeably with the terms “rule,” “regulation,” and “precept” because they all mean principles governing action or procedure. The law may be impersonal (a rule that applies to all people), or it may be individualized or personalized (an individual rule that applies to particular individuals).
Precedent, jurisdiction and case law are also key terms in understanding legal issues. When a court decides on a matter, it generally bases its decision on a precedent from an earlier case with facts and law similar to the dispute before it.
Prosecutors, public defenders, and probation officers are examples of people who work in the criminal justice system. They help bring cases against criminals and monitor them when they are released from prison.
A jury is a group of people who determine the outcome of a trial. They hear evidence from witnesses and make decisions based on the evidence they see.
The field of law includes many different areas, including criminal law, property law, torts, and commercial law. It also covers many aspects of society, such as family and employment law.