Law is a set of rules created and enforced by social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior. Its precise definition is a matter of longstanding debate, and it has been described as both a science and an art of justice. It has four principal purposes: establishing standards, maintaining order, resolving disputes, and protecting liberties and rights.
The laws of a particular society may be codified in a code or interpreted by judges and magistrates based on custom and case law. They can be influenced by philosophy, religion, ethics, and morality.
Modern legal systems rely heavily on precedent, and courts are bound by decisions made by higher-level appellate courts that have the power to review their cases. However, newer fields of law often make use of research and analysis rather than previous case law to establish their principles.
Law encompasses a wide range of activities, including criminal law, civil law, corporate law, family law, real estate law, and tax law. Many countries have their own distinct legal systems, while others are governed by international law or treaties. The practice of law can be a career, requiring specialized education and professional training. Lawyers must obtain a license to practice, and most jurisdictions have professional bodies that regulate the practice of law and govern lawyers’ conduct. Most of the legal work done by lawyers involves representing private clients. A few lawyers specialize in governmental affairs or public interest law. Other professionals, such as prosecutors and police officers, are involved in the administration of law.