Law is a collection of rules that regulates human behavior. Its precise definition is a matter of longstanding debate. The study of law is called jurisprudence, and those who pursue careers in this field are known as lawyers or judges.
Law has many functions, but it primarily serves four principal purposes: establishing standards, maintaining order, resolving disputes, and protecting liberties and rights. Laws may be made and enforced by a variety of social or governmental institutions. The stability and strength of a country’s legal system depends on the political power that commands it. Consequently, nations with unstable or authoritarian governments often fail to serve the principal functions of law.
A legal system largely determines its laws by the prevailing culture, social mores, and values of the people who live in it. Some cultures have no laws at all, while others have highly specific and complex sets of rules. Even within a single nation, there are a wide range of laws, from those that govern the actions of children to those that regulate driving.
The laws that govern the way a court conducts a trial are called “rules of procedure.” These include rules of evidence, bankruptcy, and civil, criminal, and appellate procedures.
Moreover, a court’s rules of procedure determine how other legal documents, including statutes and case law, should be applied in a given situation. A judge’s instructions to a jury concerning the law that applies to a particular dispute are also called “charges.”
A person who violates a particular law is called a defendant. If a defendant is found guilty of breaking the law, he or she must be punished. The punishment for a crime is usually either fines or imprisonment. A person who defends someone against a criminal charge is called a public defender or, in some countries, an attorney.
Another view of law comes from Holmes’s ontological understanding of it as a betting system. Holmes’s betting system makes predictions about the intersection of an individual’s narrative with an external reality shaped by other people’s stories. As these narratives differ from each other, a judge’s probability estimates will change, and his or her definition of law will be updated.