Major law differences between the USA and the UK

Although the United States and the United Kingdom share the common history and origins of law, the two countries have been splitting ways over the years when it comes to legal questions. The two have many different laws and regulations, but we will focus here only on the major ones.

Court Systems

Again, there are many similarities between the USA and UK court systems. One difference though, is that the United States has the so-called niche courts on a federal level. So, for example, bankruptcy is handled in a separate type of federal court while in the UK all major issues are solved in the Tribunal System.

State Versus Federal Laws

Just like the UK is consisted of 4 subdivisions (England, Wales, Scotland, and North Ireland), the US has 50 states not including a few overseas territories. Each state is governed by their own laws, but the federal court has jurisdiction over them in most cases. Relatively minor criminal offences are resolved in magistrate courts in the UK, while in the US they are taken care of in a state court. There are, however, some situations where the federal government is not granted the precedence over the state laws, which is exclusive to the US.

The Congress

In England, there are Houses of Parliament, but in the US this is called the Congress. The congress consists of two bodies – House of Representatives, and the Senate. In order for a law to come into power, a bill must be approved by the majority of Congress members and also signed by the US president. If the president decides not to approve the law, a two-thirds of the Congress may overrule his decision.

Lawyer Practice

When a US lawyer gets granted an admission to a state’s bar association, they will receive the Juris Doctor degree and can be free to practice almost any law, which is not the case in the UK. Legislators and non-legislators are separately licensed in the United Kingdom which represents the major difference in law practice between the two countries.

Lawyer education

After a person finishes a 3-year course at the officially accredited law school in the United States, they must complete the bar exam in a state of their choosing to be able to practice law and that’s it. In the UK, however, a potential lawyer usually must take part in additional courses after finishing a law school to be eligible for an official degree.

Television Broadcast

It is not uncommon for US federal courts to have surveillance cameras in the trial rooms, some major cases often being broadcast. This is still not the case in the UK, even though this might change in the near future.


As you may see, there are more similarities than differences between the courts in the US and the UK. Apart from traditional wigs, some different terminology and a few basic rules, you can say that the law is governed pretty similarly between these two countries.