A “civil system of law” is practiced by civil attorneys in continental Europe, as well as in the majority of countries throughout the world. This kind of law originated from Greek philosophy and the Roman code.
In a civil system of law, civil lawyers and judges get together to decide how to apply the codified law to the facts. This makes judges much more powerful and tends to “institutionalize” the law.
However, United States law is heavily influenced by English “common law.” Common law is formed when judges seek out what the local customs are in a certain area. This is done by examining prior cases from other courts in the area. From the facts of each case comes the rule of law.
The common law, on the other hand, allows a jury of average people to decide the outcome of a case. This gives more power to the people as opposed to the educated elite, which is a pillar of our democracy.
Accordingly, civil attorneys in our modern system have a much greater responsibility to convince the judge and jury that their version of the law is the actual common law and custom. This leads to a system where lawyers fight over what the law actually is.
The differences between civil law and common law emphasize the importance of finding a good attorney to represent your case.