The Oxford Reference to Law

Law is the set of rules that a society accepts as regulating the conduct of its members. Typically these rules are enforced by a controlling authority through penalties. A wide range of professions involve advising people about the law, representing people in court or giving decisions and punishments.

Laws are made by governments, and the nature of law varies from nation to nation. In some places, the laws are largely based on religious precepts, such as Jewish Halakhah or Islamic Shariah. But most countries, like the United States and France, employ a legal system that is primarily based on statutes and case law.

In the United States, ideas for new laws are introduced in Congress as bills, usually numbered to indicate their order of introduction. If the bill is voted on and approved by both houses of the Congress, it becomes a public law (or an Act) and is signed into effect by the President. The major areas of the law include torts (e.g. injury caused by an automobile accident or defamation of character), employment law (the tripartite industrial relationship between worker, employer and trade union), civil procedure and criminal procedure, and evidence law (which materials are admissible in a trial or appeal).

In addition to general articles about the law, Oxford Reference contains articles that examine specific fields of the law, including air law; bankruptcy law; carriage of goods; contract; family law; maritime law; property law; and tax law. Articles also provide information about the role of law in societies, including constitutional law; international law; and major debates about legal theory.