Law is the system of rules and norms in a society that governs conduct. It is enforceable through the state and sets the boundaries of what may be done. The purpose of a legal system is to create and maintain stability in society, to provide an orderly process for the settlement of disputes, and to protect individuals against oppressive governments. Some examples of laws include the right to a fair trial, criminal laws that define what is considered a crime and the punishment for those crimes, and civil laws that determine how property is disposed of in cases of theft or trespassing.
Law varies widely between countries and throughout history. Some systems of law are codified by legislatures while others have a more loosely defined legal process. For example, some jurisdictions follow a civil law system while others use a common law system where precedent and interpretation of a statute is key. The varying styles of legal systems have different effects on politics, economics, and social issues in the societies that they form.
Some people have an idealistic definition of Law that focuses on the idea that law should be accessible for ordinary people to understand and internalize so they can make sense of their own experiences and settle disputes with other citizens. In addition, they should be able to trust the impartiality of legal institutions and procedures.
This vision of Law is often called the rule of law, which refers to the idea that the laws of a society should be impersonal and operate without bias. However, this view of law is also criticized as overly rigid and impractical.
A more pragmatistic view of the law sees it as a tool for harmonizing conflicting interests within society and facilitating the growth of new ideas by enabling a democratic debate process. It also supports the existence of multiple competing forms of Law and the use of legal procedures to manage these conflicts.
It is important to keep in mind that when conducting research on a legal issue that finding the correct information can take time. This is because researching a topic in law involves going back and forth between primary and secondary sources. Primary sources are the legal documents that govern a particular jurisdiction (such as statutes, regulations, case law, and treatises). Secondary sources include articles in law journals, legal encyclopedias, and other non-legal resources.
The ability of a legal system to do its job requires the independence of courts, the accountability of government officials, the transparency of public business, and the integrity of legal procedures. These standards are embodied in various legal principles, such as the separation of powers, the rule of law, and due process. Moreover, they are reflected in the values of the profession, such as the ethical code of the legal profession.