νόμος in Paul is almost always Mosaic Law (though probably not in Romans 7 when he finds within himself a "law").
However, not all authors use the same words the same way. Even from above we can see that authors don't even use the same word the same way, though they may exhibit patterns.
So, to hold John up to the requirement of using νόμος to refer to Mosaic Law may lead to some confusing conclusions.
I'd venture to say that John is referring to principles. A sinful life is a life that is unprincipled ... undisciplined. It is a life that is unattached to Christ, it does not abide within him (to go back to John 15).
edit - even more:
So looking at 1 John 2 we see that John is reaffirming an old law (probably not the Mosaic Law) but that he is also writing them a new commandment, or law. This new law is linked to love through being children of the light. John is also the recorder of the new "command" to "love one another."
With this in mind, lawlessness here means to not be a child of the light, which has many horizontal and vertical implications.