Like common law (of which more shortly), civil law is a term with more than one meaning. 1. civil law in contrast to criminal law: private law (Zivilrecht) 2. civil law in contrast to common law: a legal system based on Roman law (ius civilis - römisches Recht, kontinentaleuropäisches Recht) The second meaning can confuse people who've never heard of it. One can call it Roman law, but that's confusing too, because it might mean the law of ancient Rome rather than that of systems based on it. Hence we have the relatively rare term continental law. It has the advantage of being comprehensible. Now, Germany and France recently joined together in the ongoing campaign to show the world that civil law is best, and everyone ought to come to the German and French courts and draft German and French contracts and everything will be better. There was an article to this effect in the FAZ on February 1.
Verglichen mit dem angelsächsischen Recht leidet das kontinentaleuropäische Recht unter einem Wahrnehmungsproblem: In den letzten 20 Jahren wurde es immer wieder als unflexibel, bürokratisch, wirtschaftsfeindlich und teuer dargestellt. Zu Unrecht, wie sich bei näherer Betrachtung zeigt. Die juristischen Berufsorganisationen Deutschlands und Frankreichs haben daher eine „Initiative für kontinentaleuropäisches Recht“ gegründet.
(Compared with common law, continental law suffers from a problem of perception: in the past twenty years it has repeatedly been described as inflexible, bureaucratic, inimical to business and expensive. Wrongly, as a closer look shows. The professional lawyers' organizations of Germany and France have therefore initiated an 'Initiative for Continental Law'.) Note the use of angelsächsisches Recht for common law. I recall an employer wanting to describe me as an expert in Anglo-Saxon law, but I felt too young for it ...Zum vollständigen Artikel