[Skill] Law

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[Skill] Law

Postby Marina Agamand on December 2nd, 2014, 6:09 pm

Article: Law
Author(s): Marina Agamand
Other development: None
Additional Info: HD Approval. The article was approved for development before the world development restructure.

Peer Review Thread: Link
Founder Review Thread:

Synopsis: The article is complete, so a separate synopsis would be redundant.

Outline: The full article is below.


A law is a formal, normative measure, made and enforced with the intention to promote or suppress certain behaviours, and to distribute privileges and obligations among members of an organisation. A more broad term for laws are norms, which can be both formal and informal, and exist in every group of sapient beings. Families, workplaces, cities, all exist and function because there are norms that mandate them to exist and function the way they do. People who break the norms imposed on them will always face a sanction - some form of negative consequence, official or otherwise. Essentially, every normative system builds on people's fear of backlash, both from peers and superiors. Lawyers are those whose task is applying norms, as opposed to politicians who work to create them. Their course of work consists of tree steps: identifying a juridical problem, identifying the norms that govern this particular problem, and finally, plotting a path to the problem's solution.

Law in its pure form is not a widespread practise in modern Mizahar. The two pre-Valterrian empires were the two largest organisations that spanned half a continent each, and they both needed very advanced legal apparatuses to hold their vast and varied populations together. After their disintegration, there was little left to govern. The remaining groups were small and scattered, and did not require any elaborate laws to function, since they were already held together by the necessity to survive. This state of affairs has largely prevailed to this day... but not everywhere. The larger cities are finding that their populations are growing too large to be governed by a handful of leaders and a few soldiers for intimidation. Slowly, they understand the returning need for robust justice systems, which will form one of the keys to eventually restoring Mizahar to its former prosperity. The ones who take early initiative to master law may well be the ones to lay the groundwork for a future, unified, Mizaharan civilisation.

Sources of Law

Norms need to come from somewhere. A lawyer needs to know what to base his decisions on, and must know how to identify legitimate sources of law - that is, those sources of law that the group as a whole would identify as legitimate. Naturally, not all sources exist in every group, but to the extent they do, they come in the following declining order of importance:

Divine Mandate: Societies governed by gods will look to said gods for guidance. Any statement made by the god and directed at the society as a whole can be considered divine mandate. A lawyer who can support his claims with such a mandate will seldom find an opponent who dares to argue, unless said opponent has a contradictory mandate to bring to the table.

Fundamental Law: Also called a constitution, fundamental law is intended to impose norms on the governing body, rather than on its subjects. Both Suvan and Alahea were absolute monarchies where the executive power of the governing body is not significantly limited. Many of their successor states share at least the latter trait. Therefore, societies with fundamental laws are exceedingly rare in Mizahar. If there is a constitution, it is usually the only tool a lawyer can use to combat a leader's abuse of power.

Law: A law is a type of norm imposed by any group or individual that holds legislative power in a society. Kings, supreme councils and high-ranking public officials are examples of such entities. Laws exist in any sapient society and are the most common source of material for lawyers to work with. Legislators often have considerable resources at their disposal that they can use to punish lawbreakers, which makes laws a powerful support to rest on. Effort is always made to render the subjects aware of laws by distributing them in verbal and written form.

Precedent: When the legislature does not cover the subject at hand, a lawyer must use legal precedent. Leaning on the resolutions of similar cases from the past lends consistency, which is seen as important in many normative systems. However, in cultures that don't practise writing things down, finding precedent can be next to impossible, rendering this source of law useless. (OOC: cases of precedent need to be acquired as lore, because they're unique to their locale).

Custom: Customs are traditions and other patterns of behaviour that are accepted as normal within a group. They are generally used to fill any logical gaps that legislative norms may have. Any deviation from custom is, by definition, abnormal and sometimes even criminal. Custom is also extensively used as base when drafting contracts, and is normative within trade law in general. In simpler cultures, this may be the only decent source of law available. (OOC: every piece of lore that relates to local culture will boost a lawyer's knowledge of local customs).

Fundamental Principles: When there is nothing else to go on, a lawyer may appeal to the basic moral foundations of his society to determine the correct course of action, or as an argument against his opponents. This is seldom very convincing, and lawyers who rely on fundamental principles too much are seen as unskilled.

Interpretation of Law

Literal Interpretation: When strict enforcement is a priority, literal interpretation leaves little to be desired. Generally only applicable to divine mandates and written law, it is a very effective way to shove the sovereign's will down people's throats, as it leaves no room for protest. However, it regularly leads to bizarre outcomes and is frowned upon by the kinder jurisdictions. It is also the easiest to apply in practise, which makes it a favourite of novice lawyers.

Interpretation by Purpose: A good lawyer will generally attempt to deduct the creator's intent behind a norm when applying it. For example, a law that states "you shall not kill" is probably intended to be applied differently to a serial murderer than to someone who killed in self-defence. This method is more difficult to apply and carries an increased risk of errors on the lawyer's part, but often yields a more fair and expedient outcome.

Interpretation by Precedent: Skilled lawyers can use precedent not only as a source of law, but also as an instrument to interpret other sources. As stated above, anything that lends consistency to the application of law is a good thing. Analysing the reasoning of his great predecessors may also allow a lawyer to solve problems that he would not be able to solve on his own. Custom can also be used to interpret other sources of law, but such an argument would carry less weight.

Disciplines of Law

Law can be divided into many disciplines, depending on what it regulates. The two primary groups of disciplines are public law and private law, each being subdivided into finer categories. A lawyer should specialise in one of the two fields, since mastering them both is only an option for the most patient individuals of races with above average life spans. The importance of each discipline varies from society to society. A city that relies on trade for survival will have nuanced private law, whereas an isolated city with a strict caste system would need a strong public sector. Of course, the importance of law as a whole also varies greatly between regions. A lawyer will have considerably more traction in Syliras than in Sunberth.

Public Law regulates the relations between the individual and the sovereign. In societies with no identifiable sovereign, it regulates relations between the individual and the community as a whole. Judges, prosecutors and defence attorneys are the lawyers most commonly associated with the public sector. In fact, most executive positions are occupied by lawyers. They are the officials who grant citizenships and trade privileges, administrate tax collection and advise politicians and other leaders, among other tasks. These lawyers often hold a lot of influence, both within the system and over individual people, but are also closely monitored for corruption and disloyalty, since many important functions of the state rest on their shoulders.

Private Law, also know as civil law, regulates the relations between the individual and other individuals. In modern Mizahar, the only notable discipline in this category is trade law. Private lawyers draft and negotiate contracts, plan business ventures and expansions, find opportunities for establishing trade in otherwise restricted regions, and help their clients avoid unnecessary taxation, among many other things. These lawyers do possess some knowledge of public regulations, but carry little social responsibility and usually stay out of the torchlights, being interested mainly in money. They, like most non-lawyers, prefer to settle disputes outside of court and are adept arbitrators.

Related Skills

Main Skills

Law is not a standalone skill. Just as leadership skills alone don't make a leader, knowledge of law alone doesn't make a lawyer. In order to be successful, a practitioner of law must rely on many abilities other than pure legal theory. The more of these abilities he masters, the easier he will be able to use the rules, as well as bend them to his liking.

Rhetoric is essential to anyone who wishes to practise law, due to the need to communicate large volumes of complex information in a clear and succinct manner. A lawyer who is not proficient in the use of language will find that his knowledge is helplessly trapped inside his own head. Generally, one will need to have proportional skill in both law and rhetoric - an expert lawyer needs expert rhetoric to properly articulate his ideas.

Observation is nearly as important. Solving legal problems often requires scrupulous analysis, as well as the ability to keep track of a mind-boggling array of details and variables. An unobservant lawyer will make fatal mistakes regularly, and his work will not yield good practical results, no matter how well he grasps the theory of law.

Negotiation is the everyday tool of a lawyer. After all, his work will almost always require him to promote subjective interests - those of his clients, his allies or his own. Negotiating agreements and mediating disputes are some of the most common tasks a lawyer faces. Furthermore, only a skilled negotiator will be able to use his knowledge of law as actual leverage when trying to improve or worsen someone's position in the eyes of the powers that be.

Politics and law are two sides of the same coin, but politicians benefit from knowledge of law more than lawyers benefit from knowledge of politics. In many societies, politicians are the primary norm setters. They need to be skilled lawyers if they want to create policies that are not rife with loopholes, and also possible to properly enforce. While it's quite common to reach a position of political influence through charisma and social finesse, a politician needs to know the methods of legal analysis, or at least have an advisor who does, in order to effectively govern.

Philosophy is useful for a public official, but is a double-edged sword. When emperor Kovinus said, "a good judge is better than good law", he was drawing attention to the fact that people's adherence to the norms of society depended less on the norms themselves, and more on how they are applied and enforced. A lawyer that possesses philosophical thought is more capable of making complex moral standpoints, as well as reasoning how a policy should be applied to achieve fairness and justice. A philosopher of law has many opportunities to influence the norms of his society, but his political peers may not appreciate the competition.

Anthropology is vital for diplomats and any other lawyers that work with more than one legal system. Since Mizahar is a divided world with no overarching moral narrative, norms are often unique to their locale, and legal knowledge translates very poorly between cultures. Differences can range from elusive nuances to fundamental values that are completely alien. Therefore, a lawyer will not be able to practise his trade abroad with any degree of proficiency if he has no insight into the methods of anthropological study.

Auxiliary Skills

To a lawyer, these skills are just as useful as the ones above. The major difference between main and auxiliary skills is that the main skills are inseparable from the practise of law, whereas tasks involving auxiliary skills can be left to someone else.

Intelligence is needed when the lawyer does not have the information he needs to solve a problem. A good lawyer will not try putting the puzzle together before he has all of the pieces on hand, since missing variables often make it impossible to accurately determine the legal situation.

Interrogation is a more direct way of obtaining information. Usually, the lawyer can learn everything he needs to know simply by seating the person of interest across the table and asking the right questions. Subjects unwilling to disclose the truth might require more elaborate methods of interrogation.

Subterfuge is a mighty weapon in the hands of a lawyer and his associates. Like meat grinders, many laws are designed to produce a fixed outcome depending on the input - the facts and circumstances of the case. The average upstanding citizen would be surprised by the extent to which these "facts" can be manipulated.

Organisation is useful when solving a problem requires the lawyer to sift through an unusually large amount of information, especially when it comes in written form. A secretary is usually employed for this.

Writing can be handy when drafting documents, although this is usually left to a scribe. If he has nothing better to do, a lawyer can learn Calligraphy to add an element of luxury and prestige to his work.


A novice lawyer has grasped the basics of legal analysis and knows the steps he needs to take when looking for answers. He can evaluate the legitimacy of a legal source and apply the various methods of interpretation to it. He can effectively work with issues for which the norms provide clear guidelines. However, he is easily confused by vague policies and situations with multiple problematic variables. It is still difficult for him to carry an independent juridical reasoning, and to determine how different parts of a normative system work together. Being a dabbler in law is generally not enough for qualified work, so a novice should either continue studying or become an assistant to a more skilled lawyer.

A competent lawyer understands not only the rules, but also their underlying purposes. He can see how the different aspects of his discipline intertwine, and can solve problems that contain many different juridical questions. He can hold his own in a legal debate by providing well-structured arguments that are rooted in a source of law as well as his own deductions. He can quickly filter out irrelevant information and determine what sorts of evidence will be most effective in backing his claims. With enough time and good information sources, he can find solutions to most kinds of legal issues. Competent lawyers are eagerly employed by a wide variety of clients, such as public institutions for mid-level administration and merchants to help plan business ventures.

An expert lawyer is highly prized in any civilised society because of his nuanced understanding of its inner workings. With minimal preparation, he can identify and solve nearly any legal issue. He can easily find more than one solution to most problems, discover opportunities that no one else sees and effectively exploit the weaknesses of any normative system. He can construct advanced arguments to defend or indict any person, organisation or course of action in a very convincing manner. At this level, a lawyer has gained intuitive understanding of how norms affect people's behaviour, to the point that he can plan and predict the practical effects of various regulations. Law experts are highly sought after by wise leaders for this reason, and can find themselves in key societal positions with relatively little effort.

In post-Valterrian Mizahar, there is only a handful of master lawyers, and each of them has the potential to obtain considerable influence. To further his purposes, he can twist any normative system in ways that defy common sense. He can find sin in a saint and get Rhysol acquitted in court. Having long observed the practical effects of various policies, he has gained keen insight into the sapient mind and how it can be controlled. He can devise rules that would make any organisation run like a machine. While a master lawyer can easily become a politician, his natural choice is to be the shadow behind one. Using his knowledge of law as well as the many related skills he has accumulated, he wields the long arm of the government as if it were his own. He intimately knows each of the threads that make up the fabric of civilised society, and is rivalled by few in his ability to force much more powerful entities to act in his interest.

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Marina Agamand
Unabashedly Disastrous
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Joined roleplay: August 22nd, 2013, 7:52 pm
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