Law is a system of rules that are created and enforced by social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior. Its precise definition is a matter of longstanding debate, but it has often been described as a science or as the art of justice.
Law aims to create and enforce order in society, by ensuring that people adhere to its principles of justice, fairness, equality and freedom. It can be enforced by the state through codified legislation (statutes), by executive decree or edict, or by judges in common law jurisdictions. Private individuals can also enter into legally binding contracts, which are enforceable by the courts.
In a nation, law serves several key functions: it keeps the peace, maintains the status quo, preserves individual rights, protects minorities against majorities, and encourages social change. However, these goals can be hard to achieve in countries with unstable or authoritarian governments.
The shape of the physical world is a limitation on what laws can and cannot do, so they must not mandate behaviours that are impossible or force people to do things they are not capable of. This is why many legal systems are based on religious precepts. Examples include Jewish Halakha, Islamic Sharia and Christian canon law.
For a legal article to be persuasive it must be grounded in authoritative sources. These can be domestic and foreign enactments, case laws, law dictionaries, international treaties, obiter dictum and commentary by legal authors. It is important that the writer of a legal article has thoroughly researched their topic before writing; otherwise they may be perceived as biased.