The French Reform of Contracts: An Opportunity to Tie Together the Community of Civil Lawyers

Author:Michel Séjean
Position:Professor of law at the Université Bretagne Sud (University of Southern Brittany), and Editor-in-Chief of the Henri Capitant Law Review, a bilingual law review in French and English.
Pages:1151-1161
 
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The French Reform of Contracts: An Opportunity to
Tie Together the Community of Civil Lawyers
Michel Séjean*
INTRODUCTION1
In 2014, in front of the French Senate, Minister of Justice Christiane
Taubira made the following stark statement regarding the French law of
contract’s loss of influence:
As you all know, a battle of influence has been waged in Europe,
in particular between our continental law—the strength of our law
as it is written and designed—and what we call the common law
which has its own influence, its approach of services and of certain
professions. This battle has been waged daily and will be waged
permanently. Our contract law no longer inspires anybody in the
world—those that drew inspiration from it have already moved on
to the next step!—let us not be surprised at our loss of influence.
Yet, for a long time and on a large scale, France used to influence
Europe and the world through law.2
These words trigger some discomfort. Instead of approaching the
relationships between civil law and common law with a metaphor on war
—whose outcome implies the winner’s superiority over the loser—it
would certainly have been more appropriate to promote civil law as a
perfectly valid alternative to any other legal tradition, including common
Copyright 2016, by MICHEL SÉJEAN.
* Professor of law at the Uni versité Bretagne Sud (University of Southern
Brittany), and Editor-in-Chief of the Henri Capitant Law Review, a bilingual law
review in French and English. The Author would like to thank the Volume 76
Board of Editors of the Louisiana Law Review for their insight, patience, and
constructive criticism.
1. At the time this Essay was written, the Ordinance of February 10, 2016
had not yet been published, and the relevant source was the Draft Reform of
February 25, 2015. Because of editorial constraints, the Author made no changes
to the original version of this Essay, even though the 2016 Ordinance modifies
many aspects of the 2015 Draft, including some parts that the Author criticized.
2. 2014 JOURNAL OFFICIEL DE LA RÉPUBLIQUE FRANÇAISE: SÉNAT 632 (daily ed.
Jan. 23, 2014) (statement of Sen. Taubira), available at http://www.senat.fr/séances
/s201401/s20140123/s20140123.pdf [https://perma.cc/8JYT-Z75Q] (Author’s
translation); Se e generally CONSEIL D’ÉTAT, L’INFLUENCE INTERNATIONALE DU DROIT
FRANÇAIS (2001), available at http://www.ladocumentatio nfrancaise.fr/var/sto rage/rap
ports-publics/014000702.pdf [https://perma.cc/UY9B-KY9K] (discussing this loss of
influence on a global scale).

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