Découvrez les principales différences entre le droit anglais et le droit français, de son histoire à ses spécificités. Apprenez-en plus sur le système de common law au Royaume-Uni et le système de droit civil en France, ainsi que sur les différences entre avocats, solicitors et barristers. Nous explorerons également le rôle de la constitution dans chaque pays, les différentes configurations des tribunaux et l’impact du Brexit sur le droit de l’Union européenne. Continuez votre lecture pour approfondir vos connaissances et faciliter l’apprentissage de l’anglais.


What are the differences?


The legal system in the United Kingdom is different to its French counterpart in many ways. These distinctions include the common law system of the UK, the structure of the legal profession and the less influential role of the constitution. Of course, these are just a few examples. It is important also to note some other differences, such as the structure of the court system and the fact that since Brexit, European Union law no longer applies to the UK. Continue reading to learn more about some of the key differences between English law and French law. This will broaden your understanding of the English language and strengthen your analysis of specific provisions of English law.


What is a ‘common law’ system?


The common law legal system in the UK, the USA and Ireland is to be distinguished from the French civil law system. In a common law system, not all law is codified. Although legislation (codified law) does exist, lawyers must also take note of ‘precedent.’

Precedent is the existing body of case law coming from the courts, and informs the meaning of legislation as well as its application. This means that judges have a key role in common law systems; they are law-makers, and their duties go far beyond a simple application of the law. Due to this law-making power, it is very difficult to become a judge in a common law system. 


In a common law system, there are also differences in how a jury is composed. In the French civil law system, a jury consists of six lay judges and three professional judges. In the UK and Ireland, however, a jury usually consists of twelve members of the public; similar to the system you might have seen on Suits!


Legal rules in a common law system are ever-changing. All it takes is for one judge, usually in the High Court or the Supreme Court due to these courts’ status, to decide that there is need for a change in the law, and an almost entirely new legal rule can be developed. Once this new judgment has been followed a number of times by other judges of these courts, it becomes well-respected law. Courts of a lower level must follow the precedent, and courts of the same level are encouraged to follow it, although they can deviate from the judgment if justice so requires.


Can I be an ‘acovat’ in the United Kingdom?


Yes, and no – in the UK, an ‘avocat’ is split into two separate professions, a solicitor and a barrister. While an avocat carries out both in-office work and advocate work for a client, solicitors and barristers work together to carry out these roles. 


A solicitor works in a firm of lawyers, predominantly behind the scenes. They carry out most of the office work related to a case, and can work on outside matters such as advising clients and coordinating out of court settlements. A barrister advocates in court for the client, aided by the solicitor, who has completed most of the preparatory work. 

The historical distinction between solicitors and barristers originally came from the courts of equity; traditionally, solicitors worked in the courts of equity while barristers worked in the courts of common law. Of course this distinction no longer exists, although the separation of the profession remains.


The role of the constitution


In the United Kingdom, the constitution is not codified. This means that there is no one single document, or bloc de constitutionnalité in the case of French law, outlining the constitutional laws of the jurisdiction. The UK Supreme Court does recognise principles of constitutional law but lacks one constitutional document to which all other law should refer to, as exists in France. There is thus no conseil constitutionnel


This is a significant dissimilarity as the constitution is very highly regarded in the French legal system. This distinction supposedly exists due to the lack of a revolution in the United Kingdom in the late 18th or early 19th century, the event that inspired many other nations to write their own constitutions. Constitutional law in the UK does not have a true higher status when compared with other legal sources. There is thus no special procedure for changing it, whereas in Ireland and even France, there are clear procedures laid out within the constitution itself.


What is the significance of these differences?


It is clear that there is a whole host of dissimilarities between English and French law. It is important to be aware of such differences when studying English law, or even the English language, as our legal systems inform our culture, our heritage and much of our language. You may have already noticed some of the differences in your classes with LfEX so far. In any case, you may now have a better understanding of these divergences. 


If you are interested in discovering more about English-speaking jurisdictions, I would recommend delving into the following books:

The Supreme Court by Ruadhán Mac Cormaic 

The Rule of Law by Tom Bingham



























  1. Gallagher
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