Law is a system of rules that are created and enforced by social or governmental institutions to regulate human conduct. It serves a number of purposes, including establishing standards, maintaining order, resolving disputes and protecting liberties and rights.
Law shapes politics, economics, history and society in a variety of ways, and its study is known as jurisprudence. Generally, laws can be divided into civil law and common law systems. In a civil law system, a legislature codifies and consolidates laws, while in a common law system, judges use case law to decide legal questions.
There are many different fields of law, some dealing with specific aspects of human activity and others dealing with broader concepts such as the law of nature and the law of God. Examples of legal fields include contract law, criminal law, property law and tax law. There are also special fields such as space law, which deals with human activities in outer space, and family law, which deals with issues such as divorce and child custody.
The practice of law includes a wide range of responsibilities and duties for professionals, including ethics and training. The study of law is also referred to as jurisprudence, and legal education is an important part of the law profession. A judge is an official who has the authority to decide lawsuits that come before him or her. The chief judge of a court is responsible for the administration of that court, while the other judges decide cases. A judge may be either a federal or state judge, depending on the jurisdiction where the case is being heard.
Several different legal systems have evolved over time, and there are many differences between them. The main differences are between a civil law system, in which legislative statutes define the rules, and a common law system, in which judge-made precedent is binding on lower courts. The latter also allows judges to adjust the rules to changes in society by means of judicial interpretation and creative jurisprudence.
Other differences involve the definition of crimes and how those crimes are treated. For example, some countries have capital punishment, while other do not. The United Nations has established a minimum set of international legal standards, which require states to ensure that laws are publicly promulgated, equally enforced and independently adjudicated, and that they comply with internationally recognized human rights norms and standards.
The precise meaning of the law is open to debate, and there are ongoing arguments about whether or not certain aspects of the law should be changed. The legal profession is heavily involved in public policy debates, such as the question of how much of a judge’s personal beliefs should influence their decisions. The law is also involved in the political process, with debates over the power of the judiciary to impeach high government officials. There are also many discussions about how to educate future generations of lawyers, and about the way that women and minorities should be represented in the legal profession.