Law is a system of rules that is created and enforced by social or governmental institutions to regulate behaviour. Laws are set in place to help keep order, protect property and keep people safe. They apply to everyone and are generally enforceable by a range of penalties including fines, community service or imprisonment. Laws are generally pre-determined and do not vary depending on conditions or circumstances.
Law has many branches and is the subject of much scholarly inquiry in areas such as legal history, philosophy, economic analysis and sociology. It raises many complex issues of equality, fairness and justice. For example, contract law governs agreements to exchange anything of value, and includes things as varied as buying a bus ticket or trading options on a stock market. Property law defines people’s rights and duties toward tangible property – land, buildings or other fixed objects (a right in rem), and movable objects such as computers or cars. Commercial law includes complicated laws such as company law, trusts and sale of goods legislation.
Civil law systems, which cover about 60% of the world’s population, are based on concepts, categories and rules drawn from Roman law and canon law, sometimes supplemented or modified by local custom and culture. In contrast, common law systems have a more flexible foundation, with legal authority coming from a mix of legislation – codifications passed by government – and case law developed by judges in judicial proceedings.