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A single important rule or a set of rules that is widely followed in a field of law.  In general, doctrines are simply rules or principles with such a long history in the law that lawyers and scholars have given them the more prestigious label of "doctrine."

More specifically, calling something a doctrine usually means at least one of two things: that it is very important to some field of law, or that it provides a comprehensive way to resolve a certain type of legal dispute.