Law is the set of rules that are used to govern a community. The rules can be established through governmental or social institutions and are enforced by a legal system.
In a legal system, laws are created and enforced through a variety of methods including statutes, decrees and regulations, precedents, or through the use of private contracts. Statutes are compiled into a code of law and are the most common method of creating and enforcing legal standards in a country.
Examples of legislation include: laws governing the environment, laws involving property and money, and criminal laws that punish crimes. Legislation may also address the distribution of funds and resources within a country or the rights of individuals.
The word law is derived from Old English lagu, from the Proto-Germanic root *lag-. It is a plural form of the noun lag, which means “layer, stratum, or something laid down”. It was borrowed into English from the Scandinavian languages and is spelled lawe and laye in the United States.
Definitions of law vary widely and are based on the philosophies and opinions of various people. A general consensus among these definitions is that laws are the rules of conduct that a group of people has agreed upon as the basis for their interactions.
There are many different types of laws and the most common are:
Property law covers all aspects of ownership of land, buildings and other tangible possessions. It includes mortgages, leases, tenancy agreements, licenses and land registration. It also includes rights to movable objects and intangible property such as computers, music or art.
Commercial law is the field of legal rules and practices relating to business and commerce. It is the largest and most complex of the legal fields, covering contract, property, company, and trusts laws. It has its origins in the medieval Lex Mercatoria and is currently codified through the US Uniform Commercial Code, UK Sale of Goods Act and other codes.
Corporate law is a field of legal rules pertaining to companies, businesses and other entities that have a separate legal personality from its owners and shareholders. This branch of law is influenced by the principles of corporate social responsibility and can be traced back to ancient Greek philosophy and the Roman legal code.
Civil law systems are found across the world and can be divided into two main categories: those based on Roman law, and those based on common law, which originated in England and is still in use today. These are characterized by a predominantly legislative system that leaves room for the judiciary to interpret and adapt rules to changing circumstances.
Another type of law is administrative law, which deals with the government’s regulation of businesses and other activities. This is a growing field of law and is a direct result of the rise of large corporations, which often require strict adherence to regulatory guidelines.
Lastly, there is the sociological school of law, which began in the nineteenth century and examines the effect that laws have on society. This approach is a reaction against the dominance of theological and moralistic orientations in traditional Jurisprudence and takes a realist view that law is a product of its social habitat and its social effects.