International Contracts: Civil and Common Law compared

Enseignant(s): Pichonnaz Pascal, Werro Franz
Cursus: Master
Type d'enseignement: Cours
Langue(s) du cours: Anglais
Semestre(s): SP-2022

Despite an unprecedented number of international transactions and a growingly global economy, laws remain different throughout the world. The divide between the civil law and the common law traditions remains also deeply entrenched. Contract laws and business issues are, like all legal and societal issues, eminently cultural. Because of the frequent application of national laws in international disputes, it is very important to learn how to communicate between lawyers across cultures and legal systems. This is the reason why the persons in charge of this course have invited Prof. Greg Klass to share his knowledge of US Contract law, a common law system, driven by state case law and some nationwide integrated norms, such as the Uniform Commercial Code.

The course will deal with questions relating to the binding force of contracts, from formation to performance and enforcement, contract interpretation, change of circumstances, breach of contract and remedies. It will allow students to acquire a deeper understanding of the features of US Contract Law and Civil Contract Law in Europe and Switzerland. At the same time, it will be a unique opportunity to share views across the Atlantic and to relate to the cultural differences.

Documentation is available on moodle :


2 hours written exam – open-book – case analysis and short essay


Learning outcomes:

  1. To be able to understand the basic differences between civil law and common law of contract
  2. To be able to see why difference matters and at what stage this is important
  3. To have a good knowledge of the main cases presented
  4. To be able to exchange on contract law issues, while understanding the cultural divide

Essential skills:

Students will have the opportunity to learn (L) specific skills, to practice (P) these skills, and be evaluated (E) on the essential employability skills (i.e. critical skills that a person needs in the workplace).

These skills may include:

  • communication (e.g. read and understand information, write and speak so that others pay attention and relate, listen and ask questions to appreciate the views of others, share information using a range of information and communications technologies, use relevant scientific knowledge and skills to explain or clarify ideas),
  • problem solving and critical thinking (e.g. assess situations and identify problems, seek different views and evaluate them based on facts, recognize the human, interpersonal, technical and scientific dimensions of a problem, identify the root of a problem, be creative and innovative in exploring possible solutions, evaluate solutions to make recommendations or decisions, implement solutions, check to see if a solution works, and act on opportunities for improvement),
  • managing information (e.g. locate, gather, and organize information using appropriate technology and information systems, access, analyze, and apply knowledge and skills)

working with others (e.g. understand and work within the dynamics of a group) – this will be less central this year given the pandemic restrictions.