Law is a system of rules enacted and enforced through social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior. Its precise definition is a matter of longstanding debate. Some scholars have described it as a science and others as an art of justice. Regardless of its precise nature, the law shapes politics, economics, history and society in countless ways.
Laws can be created and enforced in many ways, from collective legislative processes resulting in statutes to executive decrees and regulations. They can also be established through judicial precedent, which is the norm in common law jurisdictions. Private individuals can also create legally binding contracts. Laws may govern a wide variety of matters, from personal injury and commercial transactions to family, property, and criminal justice.
The most important purpose of law is to protect the rights and safety of individuals and communities. However, not all legal systems serve these purposes equally well. For example, a state ruled by an autocratic ruler may keep the peace and maintain the status quo but also oppress minorities and discourage social change. Conversely, a liberal democracy may keep the peace while providing for individual freedoms and encouraging social progress.
An important characteristic of law is that it is a system of rules that has been endorsed and adopted by a social or governmental authority as legitimate and inviolate. Consequently, laws are more likely to be followed than mere ideas or philosophies. The fact that an idea is a law makes it immutable, while the fact that a belief is simply a philosophy leaves open the possibility that it will be disproved or modified by future scientific research.
Examples of laws include tax, banking and financial regulation, competition law (which aims to prevent businesses from distorting market prices), space law, medical jurisprudence, maritime and aviation law, and property law. The law of torts includes compensation when someone is injured or their property damaged, and offenses against a government are covered by criminal law.
Other aspects of the law are judicial procedures, such as the use of jury pools and the process of voir dire, where lawyers question potential jurors before selecting them for a case. In addition, there are specialized fields of law such as administrative law (which covers public sector services and utilities), corporate law, employment law, taxation, and intellectual property. Law is an exciting and challenging field that can provide a rewarding career for people with varied backgrounds. The complexities of the law are what make it an interesting subject to study.