Understanding French, German, and Civil Law More Generally
in De Mot, Jef (ed.), Liber amicorum Boudewijn Bouckaert. Vrank en vrij, Brugge, die Keure, 3–16 (2012)
14 Pages Posted: 7 Sep 2016
Date Written: October 2, 2012
This chapter, written for the Liber Amicorum Boudewijn Bouckaert, explains the main characteristics of civil law in Festschrift-style, using anecdotes and life experience as illustrations.
The French legal system is best understood as a top-down system, with a distrust for judges, individuals and lower officials, partly rooted in a particularist culture. Because of this distrust, the French system is formalistic, and French judges pretend to only interpret the law and never make any new rules. Remarkably, French law professors mimic French judges in this respect. As a result, fewer new legal ideas are produced in France than in common law countries.
The German legal system, in contrast, is best understood as one in which judges and law professors are scared to death of making political statements. To look a-political, they like to pretend that law is only a matter of pure science and logic. As a result, policy-related critical thinking about the law is lacking and legal innovation is modest in Germany as well.
Keywords: French law, German law, Belgian law, legal culture, legal innovation, Trompenaars
JEL Classification: K00
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation