Law is a system of rules that people or governments develop in order to deal with crime, business agreements, and social relationships. It can also refer to any of the professions that help enforce those laws, such as lawyers and judges.
The precise definition of the term varies from place to place, with different systems having different characteristics. For example, there are civil law jurisdictions that have a central legislative body and common law systems that use judge-made precedent as binding law. Different systems have different features, such as how they deal with contracts, inheritance and property rights.
A legal system can also be described in terms of its principled structures. For example, a constitution can set out the principles by which a country is governed, or a code of criminal procedure can provide for how courts should deal with a particular type of case. Other key elements are how a court determines whether a person has committed an offence, how a case should be decided and what punishment should be meted out.
The way that a society defines its law influences politics, economics and history in many ways. It is a source of complex issues about equality, fairness and justice. Articles about this topic cover a wide range of subjects, including censorship; law and religion; police; prisons; and war. A more general overview of the role of law can be found in articles on legal theory, legal history, and social science.