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Teaching French Law in England: From Cultural Clashes to Inventive Integration? - The Experience of the Double Degree at Essex

7 Pages Posted: 9 Apr 2009  

Audrey Guinchard

University of Essex - School of Law

Date Written: January 22, 2009


Teaching law in a different jurisdiction it originates from highlights cultural differences and expectations about the learning environment. The experience of the LLB English and French laws, a double degree running between Essex and Paris X- Nanterre, demonstrates the original clashes that exist when presenting French law in England. Maybe because the two year module with both French private and public law is not merely an introduction to French law, but aims at providing an understanding and knowledge of the law as approved by the French law society, multiple difficulties arise. Different conceptions of the relationships between learners and lecturers, with a French model relying on a passive student role; different legal methodologies that appear de facie opposite in their concepts; different learning resources (electronic and paper-based resources), different expectations about the workload and the module, and of course a distinct French legal culture which is not as uniform as it may seem, thus adding to the complexities (J. Bell, French Legal Cultures, London: Butterworths 2001, p. 256). In addition, the use of another language (French) seems only to amplify the cultural gaps in legal education, as translations are not made, like if two separate cultures could not intermingle.

And yet, clashes can be overcome, at least sufficiently to demonstrate that multiple cultures can co-exist, feeding each other. At first a barrier, culture in legal education can become a bridge (L. Jin & M. Cortazzi, "The Culture the Learner Brings: a bridge or a barrier?", in M. Byram & M. Fleming (eds), Language Learning in Intercultural Perspective, approaches through drama and ethnography, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1998, p. 98-118). How? An understanding of legal cultures both in their differences and similarities, the use of emotional intelligence to unblock situations (A. Mortiboys, Teaching with Emotional Intelligence, London: Routledge 2005), a reflection on what teaching and learning mean (the CHEP programme as part of the staff development), and a willingness to innovate, are key features to a successful learning experience which embraces differences without promoting isolation. Ultimately, teaching law in another jurisdiction leads to the use of comparative law. Not a surprise for the comparatist is familiar with the above dynamics (see for example, R. Cotterrell, "Comparative Law and Legal Culture", in Mathias Reimann & Reinhard Zimmermann (eds), THE OXFORD HANDBOOK OF COMPARATIVE LAW, Oxford: Oxford University Press 2006, pp. 709-737; and also W. Twinning, "Globalisation and Comparative Law", in E. & D. Nelken, Comparative Law - A Handbook, Oxford: Hart Publishing 2007, p. 69)

Keywords: Education, French Law

Suggested Citation

Guinchard, Audrey, Teaching French Law in England: From Cultural Clashes to Inventive Integration? - The Experience of the Double Degree at Essex (January 22, 2009). Available at SSRN: or

Audrey Guinchard (Contact Author)

University of Essex - School of Law ( email )

Colchester, Essex CO43SQ
United Kingdom

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