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Features of Law

Updated on June 29, 2015
General features of Law
General features of Law | Source

What are features of Law

Law is a versed topic and profession with a lot of features. The word “feature” can be defined as characteristics or aspects of any material or thing. So, this topic is on the characteristics of Law. It is not bad if the topic is re-entitled the compositions of Law. The features of Law are the components of the word “Law”.

Before further writings on this topic, let us define Law. What is Law? Law has its definition as a rule or body of rules made by institutions, bodies and persons vested with the power to make such rules which are binding and enforced among the members of a given state or society (Abiola 2006). The definition of Law is versed and dependent on a particular author or views. Law can be defined based on technical or general view.

The Law guiding all the societies of the world have common or general features. The general features of Law cut across the Laws of Africa, Europe, Asia, North and South American continents. It is important to know that on National level, each country’s Law has their features. For instance, there are features of Nigerian Law and other countries have the features of their own Law. Hence, the features of Law are:

  • Law is a body of Rules;
  • Law is Man-Made;
  • Law is Normative in Character;
  • Law has an Element of Coercion;
  • Las has Territorial Limitation; and
  • Law is Dynamic.

Law as a body of Rules

The first component of Law is rules. Law is similar to rules because without rules there will be no Law. Law is made up of rules that guide a particular community. It is the rules that are called Law and any who goes contrary to the rules attracts punishment to his or herself.

It is easy to assume that “Law” can be found in one book, which will give answer to every legal questions asked by citizens of various communities. Notwithstanding that Law is found in books, people need lawyers for proper interpretations and defence in Law courts. Law which is composed of many rules can be found in constitution, and several other statutes and cases decoded by the courts in disputes involving individuals and individual and government, inter alia.

Law is Man-Made

Explaining what it means by Law is Man-Made?

The Law governing world societies are made by man. Biblically, the commandments are believed to be made by God and Christians are expected to live by the Law. Though some commandments are in synonymous to the Law guiding societies, but the Law is made by man and man is expected to live by the man-made Law.

Before Laws are made, the consent of the people living in the society is consulted. This is usually carried out through the government officials that represent them in the government house. It is only a bad and selfish government that makes Laws without seeking the opinion of the masses that they lead. Another aspect of Laws that may be made without consulting the consent of the citizens is Laws made by non-democratic government. It is important to note that no rule or rules are taken as Law until they are traceable to the institutional sources such as the constitution, statute, case Law, delegated legislation and others.

The Law is made by man and is to be obeyed by man as well. This is one of the principal or fundamental features of every Law, be it constitutional or local Law. Law that govern countries are not that made by God so that man will not argue that God is spirit and therefore cannot abide by the Law made by spirit.

Law is Normative in Character

The word “normative” according to Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary is defined as relating to or deriving from a standard or norm. What it implies is that another feature of Law is that it maintains standard. This standard is what gives Law its uniqueness, and it makes it to be exercised with authority.

Law is rule or system of rules. A rule prescribes what activities may, should or should not be carried out, or refers to activities that should be carried out in a specific way (Abiola 2006). Because of the specific ways the activities that relate to Law are to be conducted, lawyers are expected to follow such trend in Law courts. The normative characteristic of Law is similar to that observed in religious, moral and other customary rules all over the world.

Element of Coercion as a Feature of Law

The word “coercion” is a noun which is similar to force. Law does not have the time to start petting any person that goes contrary to it. Since it tells not to take a particular action and you insist and went into it, it will force you into the punishment or penalty you deserve because you were warned before you took the act. Law is authoritative. It is because of this feature that makes people to be very careful before they take any action as Law is the respecter of no man.

The breach of legal rules is usually enforced by means of sanction or coercion through organized institutions such as the police force, Law courts, tribunals, and prisons.

Armed robbers that go for operations in the midnight really understand what breaching of the Law is likely to cause to them. They know that they will be forced to face the class of offence they deserve when caught. This is one of the reasons that make them go into robbery in the night. They clearly understand that if caught by the policemen that the Law will force them into conditions they will never like to be in their lifetime. Whether they went into armed robbery operation because of unemployment or due to the effects of poverty is what Law may be careless about.

Territorial limitation of Law. Law is limited to a particular state, community, or country.
Territorial limitation of Law. Law is limited to a particular state, community, or country. | Source

Territorial Limitation as a Feature of Law

Law is limited to a particular state. The Law of the Federal Republic of Nigeria may state that once it is 7 P.M in the night, no motorcycle is expected to be seen moving in the rural areas of the Federal Republic of Nigeria irrespective of your personality. In rural areas of South Africa, this Law may not hold. There may be solid reasons for institution of such Law in that community. That reason may not be observed in South Africa and because of that, all motorcyclists are given the freedom to move about beyond that time set for Nigerian rural areas.

The Law is made by a particular state to suite their standard of living. In Holman v Johnson, the plaintiff had sold tea to the defendant in Dunkirk with full knowledge that the tea was to be smuggled into England. In a suit for the recovery of the price, it was objected that the contract was void for illegitimacy. The court rejected this contention based on the above principle. It was held that the seller had no concern in the smuggling scheme and did not violet any English Law. T o uphold the claims of the defendant would be tantamount to giving the English Law extra territorial effect.

Dynamism as one of the principal features of Law
Dynamism as one of the principal features of Law | Source

Law is Dynamic

Over the years, Laws have been changing from generation to generation. The Law that held in United States of America hundred years ago have been changed to what the government of the country think is a better one. This is how the Law will continue to change and others added with time to address the issues that the country is facing.

After Nigeria got her independence from Colonial Masters, the government that was ruling was the military. As of them, only military men were allowed to handle presidential seat of the country. In the other word, before you rule as the president of the country, you must have served as a military man. Today, such Law has been changed. It is no longer military rule but now democracy. So, one does not have to be a military man in the country before leading as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Law is prone to change. This is why countries talk about the amendment of constitutions. In that respect, the outdated Laws are changed and the new ones added. Later in the future, new Laws are discovered and then added to meet up to the standard of the world.


In as much as this topic described the features of law, individual countries have specific features that make theirs.Law is made of various characteristics. The general features of Law were detailed out for complete comprehension. The features of Law as stated are dynamism, territorial limitation, coercion, normative, man-made and set of rules. It is important to note that there is possibility of having other features of Law that were not mentioned.

•Abiola Sanni (2006), “Introduction to Nigeria Legal Method”, Obafemi Awolowo University Press Limited, Nigeria.
•C. O. Okonkwo (1990), Criminal Law in Nigeria, Spectrum, Ibadan, Nigeria.
•Planche v Fletcher (1775), Lord Mansfield affirmed the dictum in Johnson’s case.
•Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, Eleventh Edition.


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