Law is a set of rules created and enforced by social or governmental institutions to regulate behaviour and protect individuals, communities or businesses. Its precise definition has been the subject of longstanding debate, and it has been variously described as a science and as an art.
Law shapes politics, economics and history in various ways. Its four principal purposes are establishing standards, maintaining order, resolving disputes and protecting liberties and rights.
It may be established by a collective legislature resulting in statutes, by the executive through decrees and regulations, or by judges through precedent in common law jurisdictions. Private individuals can also create legally binding contracts.
In general law is divided into civil and criminal law, with the former covering matters such as property, torts and contract disputes. The latter covers crimes committed against a state or its citizens. A third major area of law is religious laws, such as the Jewish Halakha and Islamic Sharia and Christian canon law.
The practice of law is overseen by a government or independent regulating body such as a bar association, bar council or law society. Modern lawyers achieve distinct professional identity through specified legal procedures such as successfully passing a qualifying examination, and are constituted in their offices by means of legal forms of appointment (being admitted to the bar).