Introductory explanations on our specialization fields
1. The present article -like all the others containing legal information on this site- is written by lawyers practicing the legal system of civil law, as this term is used opposed to common law. Greece like the other States of continental Europe has developed the first legal system (known widely also as continental law), while the U.K. and the States corresponding to its former colonies (Commonwealth) the second, also called case law.
The main intellectual difference between these systems is that the latter deems that equality among members of a society is better served when every judgment (of a court) holding on specific facts cannot be different when similar facts appear again in a case (doctrine of judicial precedent or stare decisis), while the former, serving the same value of equality, interprets abstract provisions mainly of a Code or others statutory laws to judge a case. The practical difference is that in case law countries every court decision is a primary source of law, while in civil law countries a secondary one, helping only in the interpretation of the law. Nowadays with globalization, both systems approach each other for various reasons (e.g. increase of statutory law in common law systems and increase of the influence of judicial precedent in civil law systems, etc.). Moreover, both systems regarding the very matter of law, the way that law regulates human behavior, have common origins, the Greek-Roman law.
However, historical differences remain and one of them concerns the classification of law on which is based the academic programme of law education and even more, routinely, the professional legal specialization worldwide. This is the first reason why our specialization areas presented on this site do not necessarily correspond to established academic Chairs of faculty of law in your country and the second, more practical, that they take into account the way that the average person who participates in our law society faces a legal problem and inquires for it.
2.1. In this part we will reveal some information and thoughts about the classification of law, useful for everyone searching for legal services, written by lawyers as noticed above but involving the common jurisprudence deriving from Greek-Roman Law and referring also to case law systems.
An obvious notice is that our fields of expertise refer to current Law. And as current Law, we may define the total of social norms of behavior, which are binding within a human group, able to force its members to respect them.
In civil law systems, we could state that the main division of law matter does not exist for the sake of a Roman origin legal tradition or a classification by subject, e.g. useful to an easy search of Acts. Apart from historical and practical reasons, this classification of the law in private and public responds to the democratic conception that the State performing the various functions must be ensured against every person, while every person must be protected against the State.
Therefore, in civil law States, the law is divided into public and private. Public law includes rules that govern the relations between the State and persons ( namely natural individuals or artificial ones, a company or corporation, etc, with legal entity) while Private law governs relations of persons only. Each of these fundamental areas of law is run by its own basic principles. The word State is used in a broad sense including all kinds of legal entities managed solely or partly by the government to perform its duties.
The main sectors of public law are constitutional law, administrative law and criminal law. Further, each of them is divided into sub-sectors. So for example, the administrative law is divided into general administrative and special administrative law. Principles and regulations of the first apply also in the second while special administrative law is to be regarded as the social insurance law, the tax or revenue law, etc. Similarly, there is the general criminal law and special criminal law and special criminal law can be considered drugs, economic crimes, etc.
The basic sectors of private law are civil law, commercial law, labor law and intellectual property law. However, in the area of private law, basic sectors of law may vary depending on the legal tradition of each country. Further, these sectors are divided into sub-sectors and so the law of obligations, family law, banking law, etc. occur. Obviously and here apply the remarks noticed above for public law. So for example a commercial contract examined by commercial law is also an ordinary contract that the law of obligations examines.
We must notice that almost according to the above classification, Courts in common law states are frequently divided into administrative, which adjudicate only on persons-State claims and disputes and common or civil courts where not only the disputes between persons are judged but also the criminal law ones.
It must be noticed also for both the above fundamental areas of law that the constitutional law is particularly important, since each individual provision of public but also private law is interpreted on the basis of the principles arising from the Constitution, specifies a constitutional provision. By consequence, any rule introduced by a provision is co-designated by Constitution itself.
2.2. In common law systems (like UK or US, see 1), the most widespread classification of law is that of Civil and Criminal law. Here the democratic conception mentioned above is simply served by the omission of a special law and special courts existing in civil law systems for the relations between Government and people (State and persons, see above in 2.1). This is the legal tradition of common law systems which poses the State before justice in the same position as persons. Civil law (the same term with a different meaning than above in 1) governs not only the relations between persons (individuals or legal entities) but also those between the State and persons and it is called civil law when these relations don’t affect the public order. When the last happens we are in the field of criminal law.
Apart from the different position of the state and the differences in sources of law, the matter of civil and criminal law in both systems is quite similar. Crimes are human acts (or failure to act), deeds that are harmful to society, and antisocial to a very serious degree that official disapproval is needed to prevent offenders but also other members of society from committing them again. On the other hand, civil law comes to regulate relations between private parties including State with the above wide meaning and offers compensation or restitution, just enough to redress the injured party’s injury.
Classical subdivisions of civil law in case law states must be considered the law of contracts and law of torts (the equivalent in civil law states is the law of obligations), family law, real estate law, etc. while also in criminal law we may distinguish special areas. Applying general principles and rules as noticed above is also in force. The same occurs with the fundamental position of Constitutional law, although here it may not be entirely written, e.g the UK Constitution. Here also administrative tribunals exist but contrary to the civil law states, they usually exist as inferior to the ordinary courts of law, taking decisions on subjects more often of a public administrative nature (e.g of welfare benefits), decisions which may be challenged to ordinary courts.
3. The above legal distinctions are made on the social matter regulated in the internal law of every country. Foundational is also the distinction between international and domestic law; and the distinction between substantive and procedural law. The latter contains the rules governing the proceedings in the courts.
Finishing our introduction we must emphasize that branches of law aren’t sealed off as to be impervious to each other. On the contrary, as a legal system is united and progressive at the same time, these branches can’t include a different or absolutely unique matter but involve each other, the general principles of the most general applies in the most specific and developments in one of them may have direct impact to the others. This is the simplest reason why cooperation between specialized jurists is a prerequisite for the successful treatment of any case.