Common Law vs Roman Law

Common Law and Roman Law are two influential legal systems with distinct origins and principles that have had a significant influence on other legal systems around the world. Common Law, developed in England and based on judicial precedent, emphasises case law and the principle of stare decisis. Roman Law, originating from ancient Rome, emphasises legislation and the systematic organisation of legal principles.

Common Law

Origins: Common law originated in England and evolved over centuries through court decisions and customs. It forms the basis of the legal systems in many English-speaking countries, including the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom.

Precedent: One of the defining characteristics of common law is the reliance on precedent. Courts are bound by previous decisions, known as case law or judge-made law. Judges interpret statutes and apply legal principles based on prior court rulings, creating a body of legal principles and doctrines.

Flexibility: Common law is known for its flexibility and adaptability. Judges have the authority to interpret and apply the law in a manner that suits the particular circumstances of each case. This allows the law to evolve gradually through judicial decisions.

Role of Judges: Judges play a crucial role in the development of common law. They interpret statutes, fill in gaps in the law, and create legal principles through their judgments. Precedents set by higher courts serve as binding authority on lower courts.

Roman Law

Origins: Roman law is derived from the legal system of ancient Rome and has had a significant influence on continental European legal systems. It developed primarily through written legal codes and the works of jurists, such as Justinian's Corpus Juris Civilis.

Codification: Roman law emphasises codification, which means that legal principles and rules are set out in comprehensive written codes. These codes serve as the primary source of law and provide a systematic and organised framework for legal proceedings.

Legal categories: Roman law classifies legal matters into distinct categories, such as property law, contract law, and tort law. This classification allows for a structured approach to legal analysis and provides a comprehensive legal framework.

Role of judges: In Roman law, judges are primarily responsible for applying the law rather than developing it. Their role is to interpret and enforce the existing legal provisions, rather than creating new legal principles through their judgments.

Influence on civil law: Roman law has greatly influenced civil law systems found in many countries, including those in continental Europe, Latin America, and parts of Asia. Civil law systems often rely on comprehensive legal codes and place a greater emphasis on legislation rather than judicial precedent.

In summary, common law is based on judicial precedent and gradual development through court decisions, while Roman law relies on comprehensive legal codes and a structured framework. Common law allows for flexibility and adaptation, while Roman law provides a systematic and organised approach to legal matters. Both legal systems have shaped the development of legal systems around the world and continue to influence modern legal principles.
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.