Law is the system of rules that a society develops in order to deal with crime, business agreements, and social relationships. The word can also refer to the people who work in this system, such as lawyers and judges. A lawyer is someone who practices law, or a person who writes about law, or an expert on legal issues.
Law, like the sciences, is an indisputable fact about the way the world and the forces in it work. However, unlike the sciences, laws describe what happens but do not explain why it occurs. For example, it is against the law to set up security cameras without posting a sign on the door, but we do not know why this is against the law.
Most countries have a system of law to regulate human conduct. The precise nature of the system differs from country to country, but in all systems there are a few fundamental elements:
The most obvious element of any legal system is that it has a judicial branch whose members are called judges. The role of the judiciary is to interpret and apply laws, to resolve disputes between parties by settlement or trial, and to punish people who commit crimes.
Other important elements of any legal system are a code or charter that lays out the basic principles of a legal system, and a system for determining whether an act is a crime. In addition, a legal system must have a way of recording the history of the law, so that it can be referred to in the future.
Laws are generally created and enforced by political and governmental institutions. The exact nature of these institutions varies from country to country, but in all of them the governing body must have the power to make and enforce the laws. Without this power, the legal system cannot function properly.
A major element of any legal system is the way in which its judges are trained and selected. A judge must have a deep respect for the law and an ability to reason logically. A judge must also have a strong sense of fairness, and should be free from prejudice or political bias.
Other important elements of a legal system include the jury pool from which the actual jury is chosen, and the process by which the attorneys in a case choose jurors. During trial, the judge and attorneys must keep notes to document what happens in court. A log of these notes is called the docket. Occasionally, a judge may decide that a case is so important that it must be heard by the entire court. This is known as sitting en banc.