Contrary to the beliefs widely held in the United States pertaining to the characteristics and dynamics of Mexico’s legal system, Mexico does enjoy an organized and highly evolved legal system which, for the most part, is efficient. The roots of Mexico’s legal system are both classical and historic, based on the French, Greek and Roman legal systems. The Mexican system also shares more in common with other international legal systems (especially those in continental Europe and Latin America) than the US legal system does.
Mexico is largely shaped by Spanish and Aztec traditions, like the piñata and soccer, however the country’s legal system is quite different. To get a better understanding of the country’s legal system, it is beneficial to compare it to the US legal system whose fundamental difference is that Mexico is a civil law country while the US is a common law country.
The US common law system is based on the statutory law and case law of England along with the American colonies prior to the American Revolution. The common law system focuses on customs, usage and case law rather than legislative enactments. In comparison, Mexico’s civil law was later refined in the Napoleonic or French code of 1804; its commercial law on the other hand is based heavily on Italian law.
Mexico’s legal system is also influenced by colonial law including distinct collections of not just laws but accepted legal practices and customs that demanded using complex regulations and intricate writings related to important act of an individual’s life like marriages and births, religious or canon law produced by the Catholic Church. It is this distinction between the two systems based on their particular origins, along with the unique practices and traditions that stem from the different origins that is the most important distinction.
Each of these legal systems has their own unique weaknesses and strengths. While in the US when law is proclaimed to be unconstitutional it is typically applied universally, in Mexico the law is only unconstitutional for the party that filed the Amparo case; anyone wishing to challenge the law is required to file their own case.
What is law school like in the US vs. in other countries?
While law schools in the United States and Canada are typically post graduate institutions with substantial autonomy, legal education in other countries is made available within the core educational system in non-degrees earned at vocational training institutions or from a university level.
In the US, the traditional law school program will take 3 years to complete with students taking classes between August and May, using their summers off for work opportunities and internships. The Accelerated Juris Doctor (JD) Program on the other hand presents year round classes. It doesn’t matter if a student completes law school in 2 years or 3, the same core materials are covered by both options, ensuring that all students will be able to leave school with the education they need to work in the legal field.