Law is a set of rules created and enforced through social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior. It can be enacted by a collective legislature resulting in statutes, through the executive branch via decrees and regulations or through judicial decisions creating precedent (called case law). Private individuals can also create legally binding contracts. Typically laws are enforceable through a judicial system that includes courts and judges.
The field of law is diverse and encompasses everything from criminal justice to family law, property law, and commercial laws. It can also include international law, such as laws regarding space and environmental issues. However, the majority of law concerns civil and criminal justice. Criminal justice covers criminal charges and trials, and civil justice addresses lawsuits. There is also a subfield of law called administrative law which covers a variety of government regulatory matters, such as environmental law, labor laws, securities laws and tax law.
Laws are often based on social norms and ideas of what is fair or unfair, what is morally right or wrong, and the will of a god or deity. These principles are not measurable, and thus are not empirically verifiable. However, a legal system requires some kind of mechanism to ensure that those in power do not abuse their authority and to prevent the creation of unjust laws. This is accomplished through checks and balances in the form of multiple branches of government, regular elections, no confidence votes, and other procedures.
In some countries, there is a separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches, while in others the executive and legislative branches are combined into a single parliament. In either case, there is usually some sort of system for ensuring that one branch does not override the other, such as a requirement for a majority vote in order to pass legislation or a requirement for a two-thirds majority vote in order to change a statute.
Traditionally, law was developed through trial and error, with legal maxims compiled for guidance. It then underwent major codification in the Roman Empire and in medieval Europe. This was followed by an evolution of case law in the form of precedent, and later a development of legal systems incorporating common and statutory law.
Today, the field of law is rapidly evolving. New technologies are changing the way we live and work, and legal systems need to adapt to keep up. For example, laws related to intellectual property are evolving as the Internet changes the nature of a person’s ownership of an idea or invention. Likewise, a new area of law is arising in the realm of social media. In addition to technological advancements, law must address the increased prevalence of sexual harassment and a greater emphasis on equal rights for all people. The future of law is uncertain, but the need to provide a system that protects people from injustice remains a central aspect of a functioning society.