What is Common Law? Brief Guide

Common law is a type of law that comes from judges’ decisions in court cases. Common law develops over time instead of being written down in one big book when judges look at how similar cases were decided in the past.

Making laws with this method is called “common” because it applies to everyone in the country, not just one specific group.

It’s like a big puzzle that keeps getting built as judges make their decisions. These decisions are important because they help shape how laws are understood and how they are used in different situations.

So, common law is like a big collection of past judgments that guide us in deciding what is fair and right.

The origin of common law: 

The origins of common law go back a long time, to a time when people didn’t have written laws like we do today. They needed a way to solve disputes and make fair decisions.

Common law started developing in England many years ago, as a way to answer these questions. Instead of having one clear set of laws written down in a big book, judges started making decisions based on past cases.

Common law is all about fairness and justice. It is based on some important principles that judges use to interpret and apply laws in court.

When judges have a case in front of them, they closely look at all the facts and evidence to make a fair decision. They think about what would be fair and what is commonly accepted in society.

What are precedents?

One of the important things that guide judges in common law is called “precedents.” Precedents are past decisions that judges made in similar cases.

When judges look at these past decisions, it helps them decide how similar cases should be treated in the present.

They try to make sure that cases with similar circumstances are decided in a similar way, so it is fair and consistent.

Flexibility of Common Law:

One of the great things about common law is that it is flexible and can adapt to new situations. As society changes and new problems arise, laws need to change too.

Common law allows judges to make decisions that fit the current time and situation. This helps make sure that laws are fair and can be applied to different circumstances.

Difference between Common Law & Statutory Law:

There is a difference between common law and statutory law. Statutory laws are made by governments and are written down in laws passed by lawmakers. They are more clear and specific.

On the other hand, common law is based on judges’ decisions and develops over time. It is more flexible and open to interpretation.

Role of Judges in Common Law:

Judges play a really important role in shaping common law. When judges make decisions in court, their decisions become a part of the common law and guide future judgments.

They have the power to interpret laws and create new precedents that other judges will follow in the future.

Common Law Cases Landmark:

There have been many important cases in common law history. We call these “landmark cases” because they have had a big impact on the development of common law.

For example, Brown v. Board of Education was a landmark case that helped end racial segregation in schools in the United States.

While common law has many strengths, like flexibility and fairness, it also has some weaknesses. Sometimes different judges might interpret the law differently, which can lead to inconsistency.

There can also be potential for bias in judges’ decisions. That’s why it’s important to constantly review and improve common law, so it becomes better for everyone.

Overall, common law is still very relevant and used in many countries around the world, including the United States and the United Kingdom.

It helps ensure fairness and justice in our legal system. It continues to guide and shape the way we understand and apply laws in different situations.

Pros and cons of Common Law:


1. Fairness:

Common law tries to treat everyone fairly and equally, no matter who they are or where they come from.

2. Flexibility:

Common law can adapt and change over time, allowing it to keep up with the needs and values of society.

3. Case-by-case approach:

Common law looks at each situation individually, considering the specific details and circumstances, which can sometimes lead to more customized solutions.


1. Time-consuming:

Common law can be slow because it often involves going through many previous cases to make a decision. This can sometimes cause delays.

2. Uncertainty:

Because common law is created by judges’ decisions. It may not always be clear how a problem will be solved. Till a case has already gone through the court system.

3. Complexity:

Sometimes, common law can be hard for people to fully understand, especially if they’re not familiar with legal terms and concepts.

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Q: How is common law different from other laws?

Judges interpret existing laws. They apply those laws to specific situations to create common law. It grows and evolves over time, building on past cases.

Q: How common law made decisions?

Judges make common law decisions because they listen to the arguments of a case from both sides. They use previous cases and legal principles to guide their decisions and come up with fair solutions.

Q: Can common law change?

Yes, common law can change and adapt over time. As society changes and new issues arise, judges may interpret the law differently or create new rules to address these changes.

Q: Is common law fair for everyone?

Common law tries its best to be fair to everyone. Judges consider the specific circumstances of each case and strive for equal treatment. However, sometimes people may disagree with a decision, which is why there is an appeals process to review and change decisions if necessary.


Common law is a system where judges make decisions based on past cases to help solve problems and treat people fairly.

Common law affects everyone in a country or region, and it can change over time as society changes. It is just one type of legal system, and there are different ways to make and interpret laws in different places.

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