Law is a set of rules that tell people how they can live and work together. Most countries have a constitution that sets out the overall framework of laws, and a parliament or congress that makes further laws for matters of detail. Generally, people have enough freedom within the law to do what they want to do, although they may be punished by police or courts for breaking the rules.
The main purposes of the law are establishing standards, maintaining order, resolving disputes and protecting liberties and rights. The law shapes politics, economics, history and society in many ways.
An important area of the law is intellectual property, which covers rights over things like music, art and literature. This includes copyright, patents and trademarks. Another important area of the law is labour law, which covers rules on working conditions and trade unions. It also includes the right to strike. The study of these areas of the law is called jurisprudence.
A lawyer is a professional who studies and applies the law. They are sometimes called solicitors or barristers. They usually specialise in a particular area of the law, and have to pass exams and practice before they can practise.
Some lawyers practise criminal, civil or family law, and others specialise in a particular type of case, such as immigration or employment. There is even a specialist field of law known as environmental law, which deals with problems caused by natural or man-made resources.
There are different kinds of court, including tribunals and appeal courts. An appeal court looks at whether a lower court or tribunal has made a mistake. A higher court can overturn a decision from an appeals court.
The law also deals with things like discovery, which is when opponents examine facts and documents in possession of each other before trial. Court cases are recorded in a log called the docket. The law is often written down in a book called the statutes or code. Appeals from criminal cases are heard in special courts called the court of appeals or supreme court. The highest court can decide which laws are constitutional. They can also remove laws that are not constitutional. They can also “impeach” (accuse) high officers of the government for trial in the Senate.