What is Common Law

Learn about the origins and key characteristics of common law, with examples, case studies, and statistics showcasing its impact on legal systems worldwide.

Introduction to Common Law

Common law is a legal system that was developed in England centuries ago and has since been adopted by many countries throughout the world. It is based on judicial decisions and precedents rather than statutory laws passed by legislatures.

Key Characteristics of Common Law

  • Precedent: Judges in common law systems make decisions based on previous cases, known as precedents.
  • Flexibility: Common law allows for flexibility and adaptability as judges can interpret the law to fit the specific circumstances of a case.
  • Case-by-Case Basis: Each case is decided based on its unique facts and circumstances rather than general rules.

Examples of Common Law

One of the most well-known examples of common law is the landmark case of Brown v. Board of Education in the United States, which led to the desegregation of schools. Another example is the case of Donoghue v. Stevenson in England, which established the principle of duty of care in tort law.

Case Studies

In Australia, common law has played a significant role in shaping the legal system. In the case of Mabo v. Queensland (No. 2), the High Court of Australia recognized the existence of native title, a concept derived from common law principles.

Statistics on Common Law

According to a study by the World Bank, common law systems are associated with stronger property rights and better regulatory quality compared to civil law systems. Countries with common law traditions tend to have higher levels of economic development and lower rates of corruption.


Common law is a dynamic and evolving legal system that continues to influence legal principles and practices around the globe. Its emphasis on precedent, flexibility, and case-by-case analysis makes it a valuable tool for resolving disputes and promoting justice.

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