The Oxford Dictionary of Law
Law is the system of rules that a particular country or community recognizes as regulating the actions of its members. It includes both the legal practices and customs of a society and the body of rules that a governing authority creates to deal with such topics as crime, trade, social relations, property, finance, and more. Law is a broad subject, and Oxford Reference offers more than 34,000 concise definitions and in-depth, specialist encyclopedic entries covering all aspects of this discipline-from the laws of war to the law of privacy.
The precise definition of Law is a matter of ongoing debate. It has been variously described as a science and as an art of justice. It may be divided into public and private law. Private laws include the rules of conduct that govern individuals’ relationships with each other; for example, tort law covers compensation for damage to people and their property and defamation of character, and contract law gives people power to enter into legal obligations.
Public law, on the other hand, includes those rules that govern the relations of a state with its citizens; for example, criminal law punishes offenses against the state. The law also imposes rules that govern the conduct of public officials and institutions, such as police and schools.
A central function of the law is to ensure that people’s rights are respected and that conflicts can be settled peacefully. It also regulates businesses so that everyone knows what is acceptable or not.