Law is a set of rules made by a government that people must obey. It may punish people who break the law by making them pay a fine or go to jail. It also helps keep order in society by resolving disputes and protecting freedoms and rights. There are many different kinds of laws, and they can vary from country to country. Some examples are contracts, property and criminal law. Laws can be written or oral, and they can cover a broad range of topics.

The rule of law is the principle that all members of a community are equal before the courts and have access to justice. This is the foundation of democracy, and it allows citizens to hold their government accountable for its actions. It also ensures that citizens have property, contract and procedural rights.

Law can be created by a group of legislators, resulting in statutes; by the executive through decrees and regulations; or by judges through precedent, a process known as common law. It can also be created by private individuals through legal documents, such as arbitration agreements. The law shapes politics, economics and history in many ways and mediates relations between human beings.

There are four universal principles that define the rule of law: transparency, accountability, stability and universality. These principles are fundamental to democracy and the rule of law, and they require that governments, as well as private actors, be transparent and accountable, that the laws are clear and stable, and that they are enforced fairly and evenly. The rule of law should also guarantee the safety, security and wellbeing of all citizens.

Contract law involves any agreement between two or more parties for the exchange of goods, services or anything else of value. This includes everything from purchasing a bus ticket to trading options on a derivatives market. Property law defines people’s rights and duties toward tangible property, whether real estate (such as land or buildings) or personal property (movable items). It concerns mortgages, leases, tenancies, licences, covenants and easements. It can also encompass intellectual property, company law and trusts.

The rules of evidence involve which materials can be presented in court and how they are examined by a judge or jury. Jurisdiction refers to the legal authority a court has over a case, which can be national or international.

The study of law is a diverse field with many different career paths. Lawyers are usually required to undergo a formal process of qualification, including passing a bar exam and completing legal education, often culminating in the award of a Bachelor of Laws or a Master of Laws. They can be given honorific titles such as Esquire or Doctor of Law to signify their professional status. The legal profession is heavily regulated and has many ethical codes of practice. It is often supervised by an independent governing body, such as a bar association or law society.