Law is a complex subject that shapes politics, economics, history and society. It has been viewed as both a science and an art.
The law is a set of rules established by government that governs behavior and the relationships between people. It is a source of social order, and it serves as a mediator in conflicts between individuals. Law can be a vehicle for philosophical inquiry into issues of justice and equality. It is the subject of many fields of scholarly research, including legal history, philosophy, sociology, political science and economic analysis.
There are two basic types of law: civil and criminal. Civil law deals with disputes between private parties, while criminal law covers actions that affect the public interest and are punishable by a government authority. A third area of law is regulatory, which covers activities that must be regulated by the state such as utilities and other public services.
While the precise definition of “law” is a matter of ongoing debate, it generally refers to a system of rules that regulates human interaction. It is a form of social control and can be enforced by courts, legislatures or administrative agencies. Law can also be a set of beliefs, principles or opinions sanctioned by conscience, concepts of natural justice or the will of a deity.
A specialized form of law is commercial law, which covers contracts, business associations and other commercial relationships. A common form of commercial law is the contract of sale, which defines the rights and obligations of the seller and buyer of goods or services. Another specialized area of commercial law is intellectual property law, which encompasses laws on trademarks, copyrights and patents.
In addition to regulating commercial transactions, laws can also cover the ownership of land and personal property. Property law includes land law (rights in rem), which concerns ownership of real estate, and personal property law, which concerns movable items like cars and jewellery. There are also special laws governing trusts, companies and other institutions.
The development of a clear and accessible system of laws that favors cooperation between people is a major challenge to modern societies. The judicial community embraces objectivity, attempting to ensure that every trial is treated equally and that the same results are obtained by all experimenters. This is a difficult goal to achieve, however, as Holmes points out, because the process of observing and judging events involves estimating probabilities, a task that involves subjective judgments.
Modern lawyers are formally trained and certified by their governments or independently regulated by independent bar councils or law societies. To practice law, they must satisfy specified legal procedures such as passing a qualifying exam or attaining a specific academic qualification (usually a Bachelor of Laws, a Master of Laws or a Juris Doctor degree). The title Esquire is used to indicate an attorney of greater dignity and status. Some lawyers also have honorific titles such as the Lord Mayor of London and the Duke of Edinburgh, who have been granted peerage.