What is law in legal method?

In the realm of legal studies, the concept of law is not only foundational but also intricate, as it underpins the entire structure of legal systems and governs societies. The study of law within the context of legal method involves a comprehensive examination of what law is, its sources, functions, characteristics, and its interaction with various elements within the legal framework. This essay delves into the multifaceted nature of law in legal method, exploring its definitions, roles, and significance.

Defining Law:

Defining law is a complex endeavor, as it encapsulates both philosophical and practical dimensions. Law can be broadly defined as a system of rules and regulations established by a governing authority to regulate conduct within a society, ensuring order, justice, and stability. However, the definition of law varies across legal systems, cultures, and philosophical perspectives. For instance, positivists emphasize law as a set of commands backed by coercive power, while natural law theorists argue that law should reflect inherent moral principles.

The characteristics of law are essential in understanding its nature and function within legal method:

  1. Normative: Law prescribes norms that guide behavior, specifying what is permissible, prohibited, or obligatory. It sets standards for conduct and provides a basis for resolving disputes.
  2. Binding: Laws are binding and enforceable within a jurisdiction. They carry the authority of the state and are upheld through legal mechanisms and institutions.
  3. Predictability: Law provides predictability and stability by establishing clear expectations for behavior. Individuals can anticipate the legal consequences of their actions.
  4. Universal Application: Laws are designed to apply broadly to all individuals and situations falling within their scope. This universality contributes to consistency and equality under the law.
  5. Enforceability: Legal systems provide mechanisms for enforcing laws, such as courts, law enforcement agencies, and penalties for non-compliance.

Functions of Law:

Law serves multiple functions that contribute to the functioning of societies and the preservation of order:

  1. Regulation of Conduct: Law defines acceptable behaviors and sets boundaries for individuals and organizations. It aims to prevent conflicts and maintain social harmony.
  2. Dispute Resolution: Legal rules provide a framework for resolving disputes through a structured and impartial process. Courts interpret and apply the law to specific cases to reach fair and just outcomes.
  3. Protection of Rights: Law safeguards individual rights and freedoms by establishing legal protections and remedies in case of infringement.
  4. Social Change: Law can be a tool for promoting social change by addressing emerging issues, rectifying injustices, and accommodating evolving societal values.
  5. Order and Stability: Legal systems establish a framework for maintaining order and stability within a society, ensuring that conflicts are resolved through peaceful means.

Sources of Law:

Understanding the sources of law is essential for comprehending its origin and authority within legal systems. These sources include:

  1. Legislation: As explored in the previous essay, legislation is a primary source of law, created by legislative bodies through a formal process. It encompasses statutes and regulations that set out rules applicable to various areas of life.
  2. Case Law: Also known as common law or judge-made law, case law arises from judicial decisions. Courts interpret legislation, consider precedents, and develop legal principles through their judgments.
  3. Custom: Customary law emerges from long-standing practices and traditions within a community. When recognized by a legal system, customs become legally binding.
  4. Constitution: Constitutions serve as supreme laws in many jurisdictions, outlining the structure of government, rights of citizens, and limits on government power.
  5. International Law: International agreements, treaties, and conventions between nations form international law. It governs relations between states and sometimes influences domestic legal systems.


The concept of law is a cornerstone of legal studies, permeating every aspect of societies and legal systems. Its diverse definitions, functions, and sources reflect the complexity and adaptability required to govern human behavior in a dynamic world. Understanding law within the context of legal method is vital for aspiring legal professionals, scholars, and anyone seeking to navigate the intricate landscape of justice, rights, and obligations. Through its norms, roles, and sources, law plays a pivotal role in upholding order, promoting justice, and shaping the foundations of human interaction.

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