Country Cheat Sheet – Civil Law vs. Common Law Countries

The world’s legal systems are mainly comprised of three basic systems – common law, civil law, and religious law. Civil law or common law are the systems employed by most major business markets. Below are a few notes on their distinctive features followed by a cheat sheet for the countries that operate in these systems.

Common Law: Common law’s main feature is the idea of judge-made decisions setting legal precedent. The basic principle is that it is unfair to treat similar facts differently. Thus, prior court decisions have precedential authority. Common law was developed in England and can generally be seen throughout the British Empire.

Civil Law: Civil Law’s distinctive feature is it is interpreted from a referable system rather than developed by previous court-made decisions. This system of law comes from the Romans and can generally be seen throughout Europe.

Below is a list of countries in alphabetical order that follow either the common law or civil law system. Please note, many countries have localized versions of these systems due to their histories and influences.

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