Law is a system of rules that are enforced through social institutions to govern behaviour.
Laws can be made by a collective legislature or by a single legislator, resulting in statutes, by the executive through decrees and regulations, or by judges through binding precedent, normally in common law jurisdictions.
Private individuals can create legally binding contracts, including arbitration agreements that may elect to accept alternative arbitration to the normal court process.
The formation of laws themselves may be influenced by a constitution, written or tacit, and the rights encoded therein.
The law shapes politics, economics, history and society in various ways and serves as a mediator of relations between people.
A general distinction can be made between (a) civil law jurisdictions (including canon and socialist law), in which the legislature or other central body codifies and consolidates their laws, and (b) common law systems, where judge-made precedent is accepted as binding law.
Historically, religious laws played a significant role even in settling of secular matters, which is still the case in some religious communities, particularly Jewish, and some countries, particularly Islamic. Islamic Sharia law is the world’s most widely used religious law.
The adjudication of the law is generally divided into two main areas referred to as (i) Criminal law and (ii) Civil law.
Criminal law deals with conduct that is considered harmful to social order and in which the guilty party may be imprisoned or fined.
Civil law (not to be confused with civil law jurisdictions above) deals with the resolution of lawsuits (disputes) between individuals or organizations.