What is Law?

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The law is a system of rules that a society or government develops in order to deal with crime, business agreements and social relationships. It can also be used to refer to a specific branch of the law, such as criminal or family law.

In a general sense, law shapes politics, economics and history in many ways. It may serve to keep the peace, maintain the status quo, punish wrongdoing, preserve individual rights, protect minorities from majorities or facilitate social change. It is important that laws are clear, accessible and enforced fairly. It is also important that people have access to legal training and advice.

Law is an enormous subject with numerous fields of study. These subjects are broadly grouped into three categories, though they often overlap:

Competition law involves the way businesses use their power to influence market prices, from the Roman decrees against price fixing to the English restraint of trade laws of the 19th century. Consumer law covers issues from product warranties to airline baggage policies. Employment law is the field that deals with a person’s rights at work, such as job security or the right to strike. Immigration and nationality law concern the rights of foreigners to live in a country, to acquire or lose citizenship and to marry or divorce in that country. Evidence law outlines the procedures that must be followed to build up a case. The law of space covers the rules that must be adhered to as vehicles are sent into outer space and beyond.