The Best of Both Worlds - the Trend Towards Convergence of the Civil Law and the Common Law System

34 Pages Posted: 8 Dec 2003

See all articles by Katja Funken

Katja Funken

University of Munich School of Law

Date Written: July 2003


Increasing commercial and cultural internationalisation and amalgamation have had and will continue to have their consequences in the law of all legal systems. In particular the two great Western legal traditions, the Common Law and the Civil Law system, have become closer to each other during the last decades. This paper analyses the impact, mechanisms and future developments of the convergence of the two systems. It is divided into seven parts. After some introductory remarks on the distinction between Common Law and Civil Law systems, this paper will briefly contrast the pros and cons of convergence. The next section examines how some of the previously visible differences between Common Law and Civil Law systems have already been diminished or are about to decrease. The analysis will focus on the trend towards codification in many Common Law countries, the approaches towards the filling of gaps in statutory provisions, judicial activism, the doctrine of stare decisis and the roles of judges and legal scholars.

It then looks into the various mechanisms and factors that contribute to the process of convergence, such as the importance of American law, the unification of Europe and the unification of legal rules by means of conventions and model laws. The final part will examine which elements of both systems should prevail in the legal evolution of convergence, in order to make the newly emerging system more efficient. It will be argued that the Civil Law, due to its economy and ability to quickly react to changing societal parameters, is better equipped to meet the challenges of today's fast-paced world.

Keywords: Comparative Law, Common Law, Civil Law, Convergence

JEL Classification: K19, K33, K49

Suggested Citation

Funken, Katja, The Best of Both Worlds - the Trend Towards Convergence of the Civil Law and the Common Law System (July 2003). Available at SSRN: or

Katja Funken (Contact Author)

University of Munich School of Law ( email )

Veterinaerstr. 5
Institute of International Law
Munich, 80539
+49 89 2180 - 3331 (Phone)
+49 89 2180 - 3796 (Fax)

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