Law is a system of rules that governs the behavior of people. It serves many purposes, including establishing standards, maintaining order, resolving disputes, and protecting liberties and rights. The precise definition of law is a matter of ongoing debate.
Law consists largely of “ought” (normative) propositions prescribing how people ought to behave, and may also be influenced by social, moral, economic, or political purposes. It can be divided into civil law and criminal law systems.
Criminal law, also called the law of crime, regulates the behavior of individuals and institutions in criminal matters. It provides the basis for the judicial process in which cases are tried by judges and juries.
Civil law, or common law, is a type of legal system that originated in England and has spread to most of the world. It is based on court decisions rather than statutes passed by the legislature.
Courts exist at every level, from local to federal, to decide who should win in a dispute between two or more parties. Judges decide cases, and they can issue orders requiring individuals to obey the law or take certain actions to stop them from breaking the law.
Lawyers are the professionals who represent people in court and in other legal matters. They are often members of a professional organization known as a bar association or law society.
Those who become lawyers have to meet a number of criteria set by law and must have special qualifications in order to practice. These qualifications include an education earning a degree, such as a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree, and experience in the field of law.
A lawyer’s job is to represent the interests of a client before a judge and jury. He or she can use a variety of methods to achieve the goals of the client, such as negotiation, litigation, mediation, arbitration and settlement.
There are different types of laws, ranging from the most basic to the most complex. Generally, the more complicated laws involve detailed rules and procedures that must be followed by a court.
Examples of basic laws are property law, contracts law, torts and criminal law. The more complicated laws deal with the relationship between government and citizens, such as the law of nations.
In the United States, the courts are organized in several tiers: district courts and trial courts at the local level; state courts of appeals that have jurisdiction over all levels of state law; and the Supreme Court of the United States, which has jurisdiction over all federal law.
Each tier has its own rules and procedures. These can differ from one court to the next and even between courts in the same tier, depending on the needs of the case and the judge’s preferences.
Courts are staffed by a chief judge, who oversees all aspects of the judicial process. Other judicial officials include clerks of court, who maintain the records of the court and assist the judges with administrative issues.