Law is the system of rules that a country or community recognizes as regulating the actions of its members.
In a nation, law may serve to keep the peace, maintain the status quo, preserve individual rights, protect minorities against majorities, promote social justice and provide for orderly social change. Some legal systems are better at serving these purposes than others.
There are many different kinds of law: public, private and civil. The common law, a tradition that originated in Britain and France, is the oldest and most developed form of law.
Other types of law include administrative law, criminal law and family law. The latter covers such things as marriage and divorce.
Property law refers to the rights people have over land and other assets, such as cars or computers. There are also laws concerning intellectual property, company law and trusts.
The word “law” is derived from the Latin word, legis, meaning “rule.” It is the basis for all legal systems.
In some systems, judges write a decision that is acknowledged as “law” on equal footing with statutes adopted through the legislative process and with regulations issued by the executive branch. This is called the doctrine of precedent, or stare decisis.
Other theories of law posit a variety of norms, such as claims, privileges, powers and immunities that govern right-holders’ behavior. These norms are either active (determining what right-holders should do or may do) or passive (determining what right-objects cannot do).