Law and Society

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Law is part of the society. It is an instrument of social change. Law causes changes through institutionalization and internalization of behaviors patterns. Through institutionalization of behaviors pattern, law establishes norm and provide its enforcement. In the course of internalization of a pattern of behaviors, law incorporates value or values implicit in a law.

Law also seeks to bring social change through deliberate, rational and conscious effort. It is focused on altering specific behavior already existing in certain society. Through clearly stating intentions and means of instrumentation and enforcement as well as sanctions, law is able to bring social change. Law also aims at rectifying, improving, controlling, ameliorating practices and behaviors which are already existing in a specific society.  Additionally, law enjoys some advantages. It emanates from legitimate source usually the authority, and it is considered as biding force of law by the society. Such a situation enables law to bring social changes. It protect the helpless from the society unfair practices, control associations power, bring changes in the market place, determine the future course of the society and how people should relate in the society. Thus it is the law which causes social changes as the law seeks to rectify, guide and change pattern of behaviors in the society. (Vago 2009)

It should be noted that condition present in a particular situation greatly determines effectiveness of law as an instrument of change. A law likely to be successful in causing social changes is associated with the following: First, it originates from prestigious and authoritative source. Secondly, its rationale is introduced in terms that are compatible with existing values. Thirdly, such a law makes reference to other communities or countries where such a law is in effect. Fourth, law enforcers are be committed to the change the law is intended for to cause. Fifth, change intended by the law is short term base. Sixth, the law enforcement includes both positive and negative sanctions. Finally, law enforcement should be reasonable both in its sanctions and protection of the rights of one who stands to lose when such a law is violated. Law as a mechanism of change is also subject to amount of available information in terms of a given legislation, ruling or decision. Ignorance about a law, although not an excuse for disobedience, limits effectiveness of law in causing social change. Where law is ambiguous multiple interpretations may arise and limits laws effectiveness. Thus law needs to be clear. (Vago 2009)



Society resistance to changes is caused by a number of factors. These factors include:

Social factors

This is first category of factors that may act as barrier to social change. Vested interests of individuals or groups who may fear losing power, wealth or prestige in case a proposed law is accepted may lobby against such changes. Social class is another social factor which acts as barrier to change. This is evident in society characterized by rigid class and caste patterns where people are expected to take and obey orders from those in superior positions of power. The attempt to bring changes that will infringe prerogatives of the superiors by the lower socioeconomic groups is likely to be opposed. Ideological resistance also plays a big role e.g. ideology about birth control and pregnancy from religious groups has been opposing laws to legalize abortion and control birth rate. Sometimes, individuals organize themselves to oppose changes incase where there is widespread individual resistance. (Vago 2009)



Psychological factors

Habit is one of barrier to change. Once a person is accustomed to certain behavior and become comfortable in it, it will drive him/her in resisting any proposal to change from such a habit. The collective habits of the society i.e. customs, are likely to pose resistance to change. Motivation forces such as religious beliefs, culture, and desire for prestige, economic gain, and association may motivate people against changes. Ignorance also plays a big part as far as resistance to changes is concerned. This will add to non compliance. Selective perception about law by the people will also influence how they accept certain change. If intended changes are not related to people interests, consistent with their attitudes, not in line with their beliefs and values, then this will be rejected.  Morals observed by people will also drive them to resisting changes which are repugnant to what is considered right. (Vago 2009)

Cultural factors

Change which is likely to threaten long established practices is likely to face resistance. Cultural factors such as belief and values will drive people to resisting changes away from such believes and values. Fatalistic outlook where it is believed that man life is determined by Supreme Being(s) may results to resistance to change. Ethnocentrism is also likely to cause people to resist proposed changes from other groups.  Incompatibilities of proposed change in terms of culture will also results into some resistance. (Vago 2009)


To overcome resistance to change, some steps should be taken. First, it will be imperative to involve all stakeholders when designing a law. This will entails gathering their opinions about proposed change. Educating people about certain change will also play a big role. This will help people understand what the new law means, why such a change, its advantages, and aim of such law. Those proposing for changes should promote democracy and accept the voice of majority. This will help in effecting changes since the majority will be for such changes. (Vago 2009)



Legal professional can be traced back to Rome. In this authority individuals trained in rhetoric were allowed to argue cases for individuals although not trained in law. These individuals were called orator and never used to take fees. Later on came the jurists who were individuals with law knowledge to whom people went to seek legal opinions. It was until Imperial Period the lawyers started to practice law as paying job and it was also during this time schools of law emerged. In Rome this period saw rise of sophisticated legal system which made law profession indispensable. Soon after this period, law became a full time occupation, training schools were established, local professional associations started, national professional associations were established, states licensing laws became a practice in many states and code of ethics to govern lawyers profession were established.(Vago 2009)

Profession of advocates is believed to have emerged in 1200s in England and French. In these two countries practice of law was limited to those approved by judicial officers. The first professional lawyers were judges and trained their successor through apprenticeship. During this time law was taught through the court by barristers who eventually became court lawyers. Barristers led to creation of solicitors whose main work was to prepare cases for trial and handle matters outside the court.  Law had not yet been considered by universities as one of the areas to study. (Vago 2009)


This was followed by recognition of law as a subject to be taught in University which was initiated by Oxford and Cambridge University. By 18th century law was a full fledged profession in England. Members to this profession considered it as full-time occupation, schools training on law had also been established, degrees in law were also being offered by universities, and law professional associations had been established in form of guild. Skills on legal procedures and law knowledge became a marketable commodity. Law practice requiring licensing as well as formal code of ethics was also established. Only members to lawyers’ guild could participate in practice of law in royal courts. Training in 18th century was usually informal and through apprenticeship in some countries such as England and USA. However, by19th century law was a formal subject to be taught in university e.g. in Harvard University. By 20th century law was a highly recognized profession and many countries had embraced it. Today, this is a big respected profession guided by a number of ethics and rules and practiced by many qualified professionals. (Vago 2009)

What can be done to heighten the reputations of lawyers?

Of late reputation of this profession has become poor. Many lawyers have been involved in corruption and cheating against their clients. To combat these malpractices, the following steps should be taken. First, lawyers association should establish more stringent rules and punishment including banning those involved in malpractices from practicing this profession. Secondly, government arms should establish checks on practices of the lawyers to protect citizens from being swindled off their money and being misrepresented in their cases. Code of ethics in this profession should be well taught to the trainees and emphasized. Such actions will heighten lawyers’ reputation and eliminate those associated with malpractices.