Law is a system of rules governing people’s activities and ensuring that they respect other people’s rights. It may be state-enforced through legislative processes resulting in statutes, or by decrees and regulations issued by the executive branch. It can also be private, embodied in contracts, or based on common practice governed by case law. Law is a complex subject and its study can involve many different subjects:
Contract law governs agreements between people or companies to exchange goods, services, money or anything else of value. It is the basis of all modern commerce and includes everything from hiring a worker to buying a car. Consumer law deals with the protection of people’s interests, including safety, fair contract terms, and reasonable prices. Competition law, which stems from Roman decrees against price fixing and English restraint of trade laws, seeks to prevent businesses from using their market power to unfairly influence prices at the expense of consumers.
Property law defines people’s rights and duties toward tangible property, whether real estate (including land and buildings) or personal property (i.e. movables such as computers and cars or intangibles such as intellectual property). The term civil law describes a legal system with a comprehensive set of rules arranged in codes and easily accessible to citizens and jurists. It is an adaptable system, with the code avoiding excessive detail and containing general clauses to allow for flexible interpretation.
In contrast, a common law system uses decisions made by judges on cases that have come to trial and compiles them into a body of case law. It tries to ensure that all citizens are treated equally before the law and that the judiciary is independent.