Law is a collection of rules that are created and enforced by social or governmental institutions to regulate behaviour. Its precise definition is a subject of longstanding debate.
A common definition of law is that it is a system of rules that establishes and regulates relationships and conduct between people, groups and governmental entities. The rules are often enforceable by penalties when violated.
The main categories of law are criminal, civil and administrative. Criminal law covers crime and punishment, while civil law is about the responsibilities and rights of individuals and organisations. Administrative law includes public law, which governs the management of services like water and energy and private business law, which governs how businesses operate.
In law, a key principle is known as stare decisis, or “the law stands by what it has decided.” When courts make decisions and rulings on specific issues, those are bound to be followed unless there is a compelling reason or significantly different facts or issues at hand. In addition, laws that are made by higher courts — such as an appellate court or the supreme court of a jurisdiction — are considered binding precedent and must be followed by lower courts.
Law is applied in virtually every field of life. Labour law covers the tripartite relationship between employer, employee and trade union, while property law addresses matters such as mortgages, deeds and inheritance. Family law is about marriage, divorce and child custody. Tax law encompasses regulations concerning value added tax, corporate and income taxes, while banking and finance law concern best practice for banks and investors.