Law is the set of rules that govern human behaviour and enforces compliance with a community’s norms. The rules can be created and enforced by a collective legislature, resulting in statutes, by the executive, resulting in decrees and regulations, or by judges through precedent, the doctrine of stare decisis, in common law jurisdictions. Private individuals can also create legally binding contracts, enforceable by courts. Law is a central aspect of society and has four primary functions: establishing standards, maintaining order, resolving disputes and protecting liberties and rights.
Law shapes politics, economics, history and society in a variety of ways. Laws may be written or tacit, formal or informal. It is a complex and interwoven system of rules, and is used by government and private actors alike. It regulates and protects the rights of citizens, as well as businesses and property. Its processes must be transparent, accessible and fair, and its representatives and neutrals reflect the makeup of communities they serve.
The study of law is wide and varied, covering a broad spectrum of topics, from the tripartite industrial relationship between employer, worker and trade union, to the right to strike, through employment, criminal and civil law. Other subjects include contract law, which covers everything from a bus ticket to an option on a stock, and property law, which defines people’s rights and duties toward their possessions: land, buildings and other real estate; or personal belongings such as computers, cars and jewellery.