Law is the set of rules a particular community accepts as binding, and which are enforced by a controlling authority through penalties. It can be framed by group legislatures, resulting in statutes; by individual legislators, resulting in decrees and regulations; or established through judicial precedent, particularly in common law jurisdictions. Law can also be created by private individuals through contractual agreements, including arbitration agreements that adopt alternative ways of resolving disputes to standard court litigation.
The law covers a vast number of areas, from family law and labour law to criminal law and constitutional law. It encompasses areas like property law, which deals with a person’s rights to their possessions; civil procedure, the rules by which courts deal with cases; and evidence law, which deals with what materials are admissible in a trial.
There are also areas of international law that set out guidelines for how countries can act in matters like trade or the environment. Likewise, there is aviation law that sets the standards and regulations by which aircraft can operate; these are aligned with recommendations or mandatory standards set out by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).
A person’s understanding of what the law means can vary considerably depending on their culture and background. For example, a person’s beliefs and religion can influence the principles they trust, or their ideas about fairness and justice. People also tend to rely on family and social experience in determining what the law is. In addition, they can be influenced by their peers and by the media.
The complexity of the law is enormous. For example, in a common law jurisdiction it takes several stages of research and analysis to determine what the law is in a given case. It begins with finding any relevant statutes and cases, then extracting from these any principles, analogies or statements that are considered important by judges. This information is then compared to the facts of the present case. Finally, a decision is made. This decision is then used as the basis for further decisions and becomes what is known as case law.