Law is the set of rules that are created and enforced by social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior. It is a branch of human activity that deals with a range of topics, including contracts, property, crime and rights.
The practice of law includes the legal profession, courts and law enforcement. It is an important part of society and is studied in a variety of academic disciplines, including law history, philosophy, economic analysis and sociology.
Professionalism in the legal profession is ensured by a number of legal procedures and by professional qualifications such as being an ‘Esquire’ or a ‘Doctor of Laws’. A lawyer’s professional identity is usually regulated by either a government or an independent regulating body such as a bar association, bar council or law society.
Law serves several important functions in a society, including keeping the peace, maintaining the status quo, protecting individual rights, promoting social justice and orderly social change. Some legal systems are better suited to these functions than others.
Normative power, or the power to influence, create or alter a legal position, relationship or norm (Raz 1970: 172; MacCormick 1977: 189; Raz 1994: 258-263). In law, legal powers can be classified as “public” and “private”. Public power includes government authority over citizens. Private power involves the control of individuals or corporations over themselves and their property (Fitzgerald 1966: 229-230).
Justification in law is the process of establishing that a particular legal norm, such as “Joseph has a right in his good name” is valid, i.e., that it has been established by a legitimate source such as a judge.
Legal systems may be based on religious principles, including the Jewish Halakha and Islamic Sharia, or on secular principles such as the United States’ Constitution. Religions often have separate legal traditions, ranging from biblical canon law to a jurisprudence that is interpreted by judges.
There are many other forms of law, such as international law and public policy. This type of law involves the study of a country’s international relations and its role as a global community.
International law, or foreign and extraterritorial law, covers the legal issues affecting people outside of their own countries and jurisdictions, such as those of migrants or asylum seekers. It also focuses on human rights issues and the problem of statelessness.
The legal system in a nation can also be influenced by international law, such as the United Nations charter on human rights. This has led to the development of an international criminal code that is used by some nations to prosecute infringements of human rights.
Civil procedure and criminal procedure deal with the procedures that courts must follow in trials and appeals. These are similar to the procedures of other judicial proceedings, and they include the rules about which materials must be admitted in court for a case to be built up.
Family law relates to the rights of children and spouses. It also covers the legal issues surrounding divorce and property.