The body of rules and principles governing the affairs of a community enforced through a system of courts and other institutions. The condition of social order and justice created by adherence to such a system.
Laws may be directive or commanding, requiring what must be done; prohibitory, restraining what is to be forbidden; permissive, declaring what may be done without punishment. Some laws also enjoin the duties of piety and morality. In a state, the laws are prescribed by its supreme power.
The term Law is used to refer to the whole body of legal precepts in an organized political society and all official control over that society. It can also mean the system of adjusting relations and ordering conduct, whether or not it is legal, or to refer to a specific area of law such as:
Generally speaking, the purpose of law is to ensure that individuals receive fair distribution of social benefits and do not suffer harm or injury. To that end, the legal system seeks to establish standards for behavior, including those forbidding certain acts such as assault.
Laws are usually established through the legislative process, although the judiciary does have some latitude to adjust laws as necessary. They are formulated to be clear as possible and easy to read, allowing citizens to understand their rights and obligations. They are also designed to be flexible enough to accommodate changes in social conditions and new needs, through judicial interpretation and creative jurisprudence.
In the case of criminal laws, judges usually decide cases on the basis of evidence presented by both sides. If the judge feels that there is sufficient evidence to convict a defendant, he or she will enter an indictment against that individual. The defendant then has the opportunity to present a defense against the charges in court.
Procedural laws are those that establish how a lawsuit is to be conducted, including who has the right to speak and to testify in a particular case. In addition, the law may regulate how information is to be shared among members of a jury.
Law is a broad subject and covers many aspects of life, from employment to taxes. It is often broken down into more specialized fields such as business law, maritime law, family law, medical jurisprudence and tort law.
A lawyer is a person who practices law, either as a private practitioner or as an employee of the government or public service organization. Attorneys are trained to interpret, apply and explain the law in a way that is understandable to the lay person. Attorneys represent clients in civil and criminal trials, in arbitration and in administrative proceedings such as hearings and appeals. They must be able to communicate effectively, both written and oral, and be able to listen and respond to their clients. They must also be able to follow strict ethical guidelines when handling confidential and privileged information. In some jurisdictions, they are required to be licensed by the bar association to practice law.