The law shapes politics, economics, history and society in a great variety of ways. It serves four principal purposes: establishing standards, maintaining order, resolving disputes and protecting liberties and rights.
There are two main areas of the law: civil law and criminal law. Civil law concerns disputes between individuals, such as contracts or torts. Criminal law covers offenses against the state or local community, such as treason or murder. The law also comprises a variety of fields, including contract law (regulates agreements to exchange goods or services), taxation law, intellectual property law and company law.
A large portion of the law is based on precedent, which means that a judge’s previous decisions set a precedent that other judges must follow. This is a very important part of our legal system, but it can sometimes lead to inconsistencies and unfairness. This is why there are rules to make sure that new laws are consistent with old ones.
In most modern countries, law is a product of legislative bodies, which are usually legislatures or parliaments. The law is made up of statutes, constitutions and other regulatory material. Laws are enforceable by courts, and there are also many other institutions that enforce or assist in the enforcement of the law.
The practice of law involves training and qualifications. Lawyers obtain a distinct professional identity through specified procedures, and have special legal qualifications (for example, they must pass a qualifying examination). Many people also acquire a general education before entering the law profession, often by taking a Bachelor of Arts or a Bachelor of Laws degree.
Lawyers argue cases on behalf of their clients, and there are many different arguments they can use. For example, they might try to persuade the jury that their client is not guilty of a crime by using evidence and facts, or they might argue that a defendant should be granted a right to a speedy trial, or that a judge has made an error in procedure or law.
Appeals are the process by which the winners of a case can ask another court to review the decision. A court of appeals has the power to overturn a judgment of a lower court or tribunal. The parties making an appeal are called the appellants. Appellate courts must consider the case according to law, but they can also decide whether or not a trial was conducted fairly. An appeal may be made for a number of reasons, but the most common is that a court has erred in its interpretation of the law.