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This article is about law in society. For other possible meanings, see law (disambiguation).

Template:Portal Law (a loanword from Old Norse lag), in politics and jurisprudence, is a set of rules or norms of conduct which mandate, proscribe or permit specified relationships among people and organizations, provide methods for ensuring the impartial treatment of such people, and provide punishments for those who do not follow the established rules of conduct.


[edit] Introduction

Law is the formal regime that orders human activities and relations through systematic application of the force of a governing body and the society it rules over.

Laws may require or proscribe, or even restrict given actions, as well as empower citizens to engage in certain activities, such as entering into contracts and drafting wills. Laws may also simply mandate what procedures are to be followed in a given context; for example, the U.S. Constitution mandates how Congress, along with the President, may create laws. A more specific example might be the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, which, along with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), a regulatory body, mandates how public companies must go about making periodic disclosures to investors.

In most countries only professionals trained in the law can effectively understand and explain legal principles, draft relevant documents, and guide parties through legal disputes, whether with another private party (civil law) or with the government (often involving criminal law).

[edit] Further discussion

According to St. Thomas Aquinas, the law is an ordinance of reason for the common good, promulgated by him who has the care of the community.

Most laws and legal systems—at least in the Western world—are quite similar in their essential themes, arising from similar values and similar social, economic, and political conditions, and they typically differ less in their substantive content than in their jargon and procedures. Communication between legal systems is the focus of legal translation and legal lexicography, which deals with the principles of producing a law dictionary.

One of the fundamental similarities across different legal systems is that, to be of general approval and observation, a law has to appear to be public, effective, and legitimate, in the sense that it has to be available to the knowledge of the citizen in common places or means, it needs to contain instruments to grant its application, and it has to be issued under given formal procedures from a recognized authority.

In the context of most legal systems, laws are enacted through the processes of constitutional charter, constitutional amendment, legislation, executive order, rulemaking, and adjudication. Within common law jurisdictions, rulings by judges are an important additional source of legal rules; within civil law jurisdictions, rulings do not constitute de jure for the future, but in practice, jurisprudence is often quite equivalent to common law precedent.

However, de facto laws also come into existence through custom and also tradition. (See generally Consuetudinary law; Anarchist law.)

Law has an anthropological dimension. In order to have a culture of law, people must dwell in a society where a government exists whose authority is hard to evade and generally recognised as legitimate. People take their grievances before the government and its agents, who arbitrate disputes and enforce penalties.

This behaviour is contrasted with the culture of honor, where respect for persons and groups stems from fear of the disproportionate revenge they may exact if their person, property, or prerogatives are not respected. Cultures of law must be maintained. They can be eroded by declining respect for the law, achieved either by weak government unable to wield its authority, or by burdensome restrictions that attempt to forbid behaviour prevalent in the culture or in some subculture of the society. When a culture of law declines, there is a possibility that an undesirable culture of honor will arise in its place.

A particular society or community adopts a specific set of laws to regulate the behavior of its own members, to order life in its political territory, to grant or acknowledge the rights and privileges of its citizens and other people who may come under the jurisdiction of its courts, and to resolve disputes.

There are several distinct laws and legal traditions, and each jurisdiction has its own set of laws and its own legal system. Individually codified laws are known as statutes, and the collective body of laws relating to one subject or emanating from one source are usually identified by specific reference. (E.g., Roman law, Common law, and Criminal law.) Moreover, the several different levels of government each produce their own laws, though the extent to which law is centralized varies. Thus, at any one place there can be conflicting laws in force at the local, regional, state, national, or international levels. (See conflict of laws, Preemption of State and Local Laws.)

[edit] Areas of law, a sampling

This list is not comprehensive.

  • civil law, not to be confused with the civil legal system, has several meanings:
  • Common law is derived from Anglo-Saxon customary law, also referred to as judge-made law, as it developed over the course of many centuries in the English courts. Judges' decisions are heavily influenced, and sometimes actually bound, by precedents set by the judges in previous decisions on related matters.
  • Family law is an area of the law that deals with family-related issues and domestic relations including, but not limited to marriage, civil unions, divorce, spousal abuse, child custody and visitation, property, alimony, and child support awards, as well as child abuse issues, and adoption.
  • Halakha (Jewish law) is the body of rabbinic law, custom and tradition which governs many Jewish communities.
  • Sharia (Islamic law) is a body of law which governs many Islamic communities.
  • Space law regulates events occurring outside Earth's atmosphere. This field is in its infancy.

[edit] Legal subject areas

Administrative law - Admiralty - Alternative dispute resolution - Antitrust or competition laws - Appellate review - Brehon Laws - Canon Law - Civil procedure - Civil rights - Commercial law - Communications Law - Comparative law - Consuetudinary law - Contracts - Constitutional law - Copyright law - Courts of England and Wales - Corporations law - Criminal law - Criminal procedure - Election law - Entertainment law - Environmental law - Equity - Evidence - Family law - Fiduciary - Human rights - Immigration - Intellectual property - Jurisprudence - Law and economics - Agency - Law of Obligations - Labor law - Land use - List of items for which possession is restricted - Military law - Philosophy of law - Practice of law - Private law - Procedural law - Property law - Public Health law - Public Law - Religious law - Statutory law - Tax law - Technology law - Torts - Trusts and estates - Cyber law - Water law

[edit] Terms, case law, legislation and other resources

[edit] Law firms

List of law firms

[edit] Legal books

[edit] Further reading

  • Cheyenne Way: Conflict & Case Law in Primitive Jurisprudence, Karl N. Llewellyn and E. Adamson Hoebel, University of Oklahoma Press, 1983, trade paperback, 374 pages, ISBN 0806118555
  • The Bilingual LSP Dictionary. Principles and Practice for Legal language, Sandro Nielsen, Gunter Narr Verlag 1994.
  • Other books by Karl N. Llewellyn
  • David, René, and John E. C. Brierley. Major Legal Systems in the World Today: An Introduction to the Comparative Study of Law. 3d ed. London: Stevens, 1985 (ISBN 0420473408).

[edit] See also


[edit] External links

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