Legal Families Comparative law: Developments in European law during the second century divided the national legal traditions system in Europe into two large “legal families”. On one side is the Common Law personal family, which includes England, Wales, and Ireland.
Scottish law was influenced by both the common law and the tradition of civil law. It is a “mixed legal system”.
These systems were not so much influenced by the reception of Roman law. Moreover, the development of common law is through the judiciary as judges make new laws through their decisions.
However, it is important to note that recent legislation has become a more important source of law even in countries with common law.
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Civil Law Family
The great counterpart of the common law family in Europe is the civil law family. The laws of most countries on the European continent have been greatly influenced by the combination of Roman and Canon laws.
It is possible to find further subdivisions in this tradition of civil law. On the one hand, there are countries that have been deeply affected by the French Charter of Democracy movement. The movement emphasized the role of parliament and democratic input in drafting the Charter of Democracy. From this point of view, lawmaking is first and foremost a political process. Countries belonging to this French family include France, Belgium, Spain, and Portugal.
On the other hand, there are countries belonging to the German family, in which the development of the law was mostly driven by legal scholars. Countries belonging to this tradition include Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.
The Nordic countries do not clearly fall into this double division, and many European countries, including Italy, the Netherlands, and Poland, are influenced by both the French and the German tradition.