The Different Types of Law


In a well-ordered society, people often disagree and have legal disputes. Laws provide the means to resolve these disputes peacefully. For example, courts determine who is the real owner of a piece of property, and how to protect that person’s rights. These laws also make a society safe and orderly. The Canadian legal system, for example, respects individual rights and ensures that everyone is treated equally. Public officials, government officials, and police must follow the law, or risk violating one of the rights of a citizen.

Common law

The American system of law, or common law, relies heavily on court precedent in formal adjudications. As a result, a judge’s decision in an earlier case may be crucial to the resolution of a case. A civil law system, by contrast, relies more on codes that establish rules for resolving specific disputes. Judges who go beyond codes may not be relevant in subsequent decisions. The common law tradition is often biased, and some minority groups have historically been marginalized by the legal system.

Civil law

Civil law is the body of law governing people and things, rather than criminal laws. Many countries codify their civil law, including the French Code civil and the German BGB. Civil law is an organized system of rules that favors order, predictability, and cooperation. It is generally non-specific and avoids excessive detail. General clauses allow for adaptation to change. However, civil law is a less formal and flexible system than criminal laws.

International law

The concept of international law is the body of rules governing relations among states and private parties. This area of law is further divided into two main categories: public and private. Private international law deals with conflicts of laws and private transactions among parties, while public international law is concerned with relationships among national governments and intergovernmental organizations. In addition, international law is divided into comparative and transnational aspects, and it is often referred to as supranational law. Both categories refer to international institutions and organizations, and they are governed by the same principles.

Admiralty law

Admiralty law is the body of law that governs maritime matters. Admiralty courts have exclusive jurisdiction over all maritime matters and are responsible for regulating the special problems associated with sea navigation and commerce. For centuries, the life of a mariner has been romanticized as a world of danger and romance, illustrated by tales of pirates. Though shipping goods by sea has become more civilized, the challenges of high-seas navigation have not diminished.

Rule of law

Rule of law is the process through which justice is delivered by competent, independent, neutral, and accessible representatives, with adequate resources, reflecting the social makeup of the community they serve. A working definition of the rule of law is based on four universal principles. These principles have been formulated based on international standards and have been thoroughly tested by a diverse range of experts. They are: (a) independent of the executive branch; (b) accessible and impartial; and (c) impartial and accessible.