Law underlies our society - it protects our rights, imposes duties on each of us, and establishes a framework for the conduct of almost every social, political, and economic activity. The punishment of crime, compensation of the injured, and the enforcement of contracts are merely some of the tasks of a modern legal system. It also strives to achieve justice, promote freedom, and protect our security. The result is a system that, while it touches all of our daily lives, is properly understood by only a few, with its impenetrable jargon, obsolete procedures, and interminable stream of Byzantine statutes and judgments of the courts. This clear, jargon-free Very Short Introduction aims to redress that balance, as it introduces the essentials of law and legal systems in a lively, accessible, and stimulating manner. Explaining the main concepts, terms, and processes of the legal system, it focuses on the Western tradition (the common law and the civil law), but also includes discussions of other legal systems, such as customary law and Islamic law. And it looks to the future too, as globalization and rapid advances in technology place increasing strain on our current legal system. ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area. These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly. Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.