Law is a set of rules that is created and enforced by social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior. Its precise definition is a topic of long debate, and law spreads over almost every area of life. Laws that govern property are known as civil law, and those that govern other people fall under criminal law. Criminal law includes charges like murder and robbery, as well as the punishments that come with them. Civil law involves lawsuits that do not involve a crime, including divorce and small claims lawsuits.
The principal functions of law are to establish standards, maintain order, resolve disputes and protect liberties and rights. Law influences politics, economics, history and society in many ways. It is a powerful force that can be used for good or evil, and governments must balance the needs of the whole population with those of minority groups and individuals. Law can be written or unwritten, and it may exist in a formal system of statutes or in more loosely defined customs that are recognized and enforceable by judicial decision.
Legal fields include land law (the statutory rules that determine who owns property, and the procedures for getting it back), contract law, copyright law and patent law. Tort law covers compensation for damage to property or reputation, such as damages from a car accident or defamation of character. Laws about the behaviour of companies and organisations are a part of corporate law, banking and financial regulation.