Law is the body of rules and principles governing the conduct of people and their interaction with each other. In a democracy, laws are made by and enforced by democratic institutions. In an authoritarian regime, laws are made and enforced by people or groups that command military or political power. Laws are intended to serve several important purposes: to keep the peace, maintain the status quo, promote social justice, protect minorities against majorities, and allow for orderly social change. The nature of law varies widely from nation to nation.
The legal system of a country is generally categorized into two basic types: civil and criminal. Civil law systems, based on Roman-Germanic legal traditions, are found on all continents and cover about 60% of the world’s population. These laws are codified, easily accessible to citizens and jurists, and arranged in codes that avoid excessive detail. They provide a logical taxonomy and structure, and leave room for flexibility in interpreting and adapting rules to changing circumstances through judicial jurisprudence.
The guiding principle of civil law is that all people are equal before the law. This has a profound impact on how the legal system is organized. In civil law countries, courts are able to balance the rights and interests of parties by hearing grievances brought by the individual or a group. Courts may decide to uphold a particular law or strike it down depending on the facts of a case and the precedent set by previous decisions in similar cases.