Law is a set of rules and regulations that govern the way people behave in society. These rules are created and enforced by social and governmental institutions, and can be categorized as either civil or criminal laws.
Laws are intended to protect both individual safety and community safety from harm by others. They also provide expected guidelines for conduct, and an understanding that failure to act within the law could lead to penalties or imprisonment.
The word “law” is derived from the Latin word legis, meaning a rule or statute. Laws are typically made by state legislatures or by the executive branch of a government through decrees and regulations.
There are three broad areas of law that fall into this category: litigation, public policy and legal philosophy. These are the core subjects that most people think of when they hear the word law.
Litigation refers to a legal dispute between two parties (the plaintiff and the defendant), where the plaintiff seeks to recover damages for wrongful acts committed by the defendant. This can include a claim for money, property or both.
Procedures – The rules that courts follow as they conduct trials and appeals. These include rules of evidence and civil procedure, as well as criminal and bankruptcy procedures.
Precedent – A prior court decision in an earlier case that has similar facts and law to the case currently before the court. Some precedents are binding, which means that they must be followed unless there is a compelling reason to change them. Other precedents may not be binding, but they can still be influential.
Appeals – An opportunity for lawyers to make their position known before a judge in a case that was originally decided by the trial court. This is usually done through oral argument and written briefs for each side of the case.
A brief explains to the judge(s) why they should decide the case in favor of the lawyer’s client. It also outlines the relevant legal arguments in a concise and persuasive manner, and includes any additional information that may be helpful to the judges.
In addition to the three areas mentioned above, there are several other major categories of law that extend far beyond the core subjects of litigation, public policy and legal philosophy. These include labour law, which covers the tripartite industrial relationship between worker, employer and trade union; employment law, which focuses on employee rights such as job security, health and safety or a minimum wage; and corporate law, which deals with the regulation of business.