Law is a set of rules created and enforced by a group or community to regulate behavior. Laws can be made by a collective legislature, leading to statutes, by the executive branch through decrees and regulations or by judges, producing case law. Governments can also choose to adopt a legal system based on religious precepts, such as Islamic Sharia and Jewish Halakhah.
The purpose of a legal system is to promote safety and security by ensuring that all citizens, whether private or public, are held to the same standards of conduct. This can be achieved through a combination of legislative and judicial processes, whereby laws are publicly promulgated, equally enforced and independently adjudicated. The legal system can also help to resolve disputes and to protect individuals’ rights, liberties and freedoms.
In civil law systems (which represent around 60% of the world’s legal systems) sources recognised as authoritative are mainly legislation, including codifications, and judicial decisions. The latter are often known as the “doctrine of precedent” (Latin for “to stand by the decisions of earlier cases”) and bind lower courts to assure consistency in legal decision-making. Civil law systems also have a more procedural approach to justice than common law.
A wide variety of subjects are covered by law, reflecting the fact that laws can be derived from many different sources. Some are based on religious precepts, such Sharia and Halakhah, whilst others are derived from the practical needs of people in particular communities. Examples include contract law, property law, labour law and medical jurisprudence.
Amongst the most important functions of law are establishing standards, maintaining order, resolving conflicts and protecting liberty and rights. Often this involves providing a means of mediation between people who cannot resolve their differences themselves. This is particularly true for matters relating to property, where the law defines people’s rights and duties toward their tangible possessions, whether real (real estate) property or personal property.
The law is a vital part of our everyday lives, ensuring that we all live together peacefully and fairly. Without the law, we would not be able to rely on each other for assistance in times of need, or to punish those who break our laws. The law ensures that we all have the same rights and freedoms, so that even if someone has done something wrong they will not be treated unfairly. This is the fundamental principle of our legal system. It is what makes us a truly democratic society. It is why it is so widely respected throughout the world. We are a country built on law and it is our guiding light for the future.