Law is the set of rules and regulations that govern the behaviour of people in society. It includes laws that regulate the relationships between people, the rights and responsibilities of members of different social groups and a system of justice that protects citizens from unfair and unjust behaviour.
Laws are written or unwritten and vary widely from one country to the next, although there are some common features in most systems. The first is that most countries have a set of principles or codes that are generally followed by courts, whether they are based on legislation or the judicial decisions made in individual cases.
The second is that most cases are decided by judges who decide a case based on the evidence and legal precedent that exists in a particular situation. This is called the doctrine of precedent, or stare decisis.
Precedent is normally regarded as valid, even if it differs from a present-day court ruling, as long as the earlier case involved similar facts and law. However, it may be changed if the circumstances in a new case are so different that it cannot be applied in the same way.
Other types of law include civil law (which deals with disputes between individuals) and criminal law (which deals with conduct that is harmful to society). Civil law also includes areas such as labour law, which governs industrial relationships, and employment rights such as workplace security, health and safety and a minimum wage.