Law is a set of rules that are enforceable through social institutions. These include governments, courts, and police. They are used for defining and protecting rights, regulating behavior, and ensuring contract and property rights.
Law is divided into three categories: statutes, case law, and regulation. Each category has different processes and methods of implementation. Statutes are created by a legislature or executive. A statute can be written or enforced through a decree or an interpretation by a judge. Case law is a set of rules based on past cases. Generally, a higher court decision binds lower court decisions. Regulation involves the management of complex systems. For example, water is regulated in most OECD countries.
Civil law was first codified in Europe during the middle ages. It focuses on the rights of individuals, communities, and societies. Common legal issues include housing and immigration.
The rule of law is based on four universal principles. These are that the law must be clear, accessible, fair, and equitable. Traditionally, the judicial system provides the mechanism for dispute resolution.
Laws are enforced by government authority and the authority is accountable. However, modern policing power poses special challenges for accountability. In the United States, citizens are allowed to vote for government officials, which has helped to protect them from the power of government.
Law is a profession, requiring a Bachelor of Laws or a Master of Legal Studies. Modern lawyers must also pass a qualifying exam.