Law is a wide-ranging and complex area of human activity that shapes politics, economics, history and society in many ways. It governs behaviour, sets standards of ‘correct’ or ‘incorrect’ conduct and settles disputes between people and between different communities.
It also governs the relationships between a person and a corporate entity or organisation. Legal fields include contract, constitutional, criminal, property and tax law among others.
In a civil law jurisdiction, laws are written and enforced by a central government body or legislature. In contrast, in common law systems, laws are judge-made and consolidated through precedent.
Legal concepts such as ‘fairness’ and ‘justice’ play a key role in the development of law. The study of law is a rich field of research for philosophy, social science and the humanities.
For example, the concept of law is the focus of philosophical inquiry into legal history and philosophy; in sociology and economic analysis it raises issues such as equality and fairness; and in anthropology it provides insights into culture and community. The practical application of law is regulated by a variety of professional bodies including state and provincial legislation, and independent regulating bodies such as a bar association or law council. Modern lawyers acquire a distinct professional identity through prescribed procedures (such as passing a qualifying examination) and hold formal qualifications including academic degrees such as Bachelor of Laws or Bachelor of Civil Law. The legal system also aims to achieve a range of other goals, such as maintaining the peace and safety of societies and resolving disputes peacefully.