The Different Types of Law


Law is the set of rules that govern behavior and are enforced by social institutions and governmental agencies. While there is some debate over the precise definition of law, it has been described as a science and an art. For example, it has been referred to as the “science of justice.” If you are considering pursuing a law degree, you should know that the law system is vast, spanning several countries, cultures, and even languages.

Constitutional law

Constitutional law is the document that defines the powers and roles of different state entities, including the executive, parliament, and judiciary. It defines the role of the president, the prime minister, and the judicial branch of the government.

Civil law

Civil law is a legal system that originated in mainland Europe and has spread to much of the world. It codifies core principles into a referable system, serving as the primary source of law.

Common law

Common law judges base their decisions on prior decisions that are referred to as precedents. As a result, decisions based on common law precedents are often prejudicial, and marginalized groups may have a more difficult time getting favorable court rulings.

Criminal law

Criminal law deals with crimes that harm society. It has traditionally viewed crimes as morally wrong and the punishment should be proportional to the level of harm done. However, modern times have seen a shift in this thinking. Many Enlightenment writers see the primary goal of criminal law as preventing crime.

International law

International law is a system that governs a range of international relations. It is horizontal in scope, and is based on the equality of states. However, some states have a stronger role than others in maintaining international law.

Administrative law

Administrative law deals with the affairs of the executive branch of government, including rule-making, adjudication, and enforcement of laws. As such, it is considered a branch of public law.