Common Law and Civil Law Systems

Common law and civil law are two major legal systems used in the world. Common law is a legal system that originated in England and is based on both legal precedents and codified laws, whereas civil law is a legal system that is based on codified laws rather than judicial decisions.

In a common law system, judges interpret the law and make decisions based on legal precedents established in previous cases. These decisions are binding on lower courts and become part of the body of law known as case law or judge-made law. Common law systems are used in countries such as the United Kingdom, the United States, and Australia.

In a civil law system, laws are codified and arranged into a comprehensive system. Judges are responsible for interpreting and applying the law, but they are not bound by legal precedents in the same way that judges in a common law system are. Civil law systems are used in countries such as France, Germany, and Japan.

There are also hybrid legal systems that combine elements of both common law and civil law. These systems are used in jurisdictions such as Scotland and South Africa.

Each system has its own advantages and disadvantages. Common law systems are often more flexible and adaptable, while civil law systems are typically more predictable and consistent. Ultimately, the choice of legal system depends on the cultural, historical, and political context of the country in question.
Back to blog

UOL Case Bank

Upon joining, you become a valuable UOL student and gain instant access to over 2,100 case summaries. UOL Case Bank is constantly expanding. Speed up your revision with us now.

Subscribe Now

Where are our students from?

Yale University
Council of Europe
Baker Mckenzie 
University of Chicago
Columbia University
New York University
University of Michigan 
INSEAD
University College London (UCL)
London School of Economics (LSE)
King’s College London (KCL)
University of London
University of Manchester
University of Zurich
University of York
Brandeis University
University of Exeter
University of Sheffield
Boston University
University of Washington
University of Leeds
University of Law
Royal Holloway, University of London 
Birkbeck, University of London
SOAS, University of London
University of Kent
University of Hull
Queen’s University Belfast
Toronto Metropolitan University
Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
University of Buckingham

  • Criminal Practice

    Diagrams and Charts

    Our carefully designed diagrams and charts will guide you through complex legal issues.

  • Criminal Law

    Clear and Succinct Definitions

    Key concepts are concisely defined to help you understand legal topics quickly.

  • Property Law

    Statutory Provisions

    Statutory provisions are provided side by side with legal concepts to help you swiftly locate the relevant legislation.

  • Public Law

    Case Summaries

    We have summarised important cases for you so that you don't need to read long and boring cases.

  • Evidence

    Rules and Exceptions

    Rules and exceptions are clearly listed so that you know when a rule applies and when it doesn't.

  • Company Law

    Terminology

    Legal terms and key concepts are explained at the beginning of each chapter to help you learn efficiently.

  • Case Law

    Case law is provided side by side with legal concepts so that you know how legal principles and precedents were established.

  • Law Exam Guide

    Law Essay Guide

    You will learn essential law exam skills and essay writing techniques that are not taught in class.

  • Law Exam Guide

    Problem Question Guide

    We will show you how to answer problem questions step by step to achieve first-class results.

  • Conflict of Laws

    Structured Explanations

    Complex legal concepts are broken down into concise and digestible bullet point explanations.

  • Legal System and Method

    Legal Research

    You will learn legal research techniques with our study guide and become a proficient legal researcher.

  • Jurisprudence and Legal Theory

    Exam-focused

    All essential concepts, principles, and case law are included so that you can answer exam questions quickly.