Law, Hugh (1818–83), lord chancellor, was born 19 June 1818 at Woodlawn, Co. Down, the only son of John Law, and his wife, Margaret Law (née Crawley). Educated at the Royal School, Dungannon, he entered TCD in 1834, where he was a scholar (1837) and graduated BA in 1839. He decided on a career in the law and entered Lincoln's Inn; he was called to the Irish bar in 1840. Although he joined the north-eastern circuit, his main practice was in Dublin, and he also pleaded appeal cases in the house of lords.
He was professor of English law at Queen's College, Galway (1849–58), and showed a lifelong commitment to educational issues. He became QC in 1860. Deeply interested in social questions, he was a member of the Statistical Society. In 1868 he was appointed legal advisor to the lord lieutenant, and became involved in politics as a Liberal; he drafted both the act for the disestablishment of the church of Ireland (1869) and the 1870 land act. He became a bencher of the King's Inns in 1870, solicitor general two years later, was sworn a privy councillor in December 1873, and was briefly Irish attorney general (1874) in Gladstone's ministry shortly before it fell.
Law entered parliament as MP for Londonderry (1874–81), and was again attorney general in Gladstone's new ministry, from April 1880. Later that year he prosecuted Charles Stewart Parnell (qv) for conspiracy in the state trial over his involvement in the formation of the Land League, and he was engaged in the drafting of the 1881 land act. He resigned from parliament when he was appointed Irish lord chancellor on 11 November, in which role his tenure was brief but highly respected.
Law married, in 1863, Ellen Maria White, the daughter of William White; she died in 1875. Their son, Hugh Alexander Law (qv), was an MP and TD. Law lived in Dublin at Fitzwilliam Square. He died, unexpectedly, 10 September 1883 at Rathmullen House, Co. Donegal, of inflammation of the lungs.