Instructor(s): Catherine Valcke

For graduate students, the course number is LAW5004HF.

Note: This course satisfies either the Perspective or the International/Comparative/Transnational course requirement.

Note: The Quercus program will be used for this course. 

Over 150 countries and 60% of the world population are governed by the civil law tradition in matters of private law. The larger part of Europe, Central and South America, Asia, and Africa indeed use a system of codified law molded more or less directly on either the French or the German Civil Code - as do Quebec, Louisiana, and Puerto Rico, in North America. In a globalized society, just about any kind of legal practice involves interacting with civil law jurists. A grounding in civil law moreover is particularly valuable for anyone contemplating an international or international law-related practice, as well as for students interested in federal clerkships and/or transnational internships. In systems of codified law, legal reasoning and argumentation proceed very differently than in common law systems, which rely more heavily on judge-made law. 

This course aims to provide common law students with an overview of the civil law - its history, intellectual underpinnings, principal actors, and representative institutions, with particular emphasis on Quebec private law. The aim is to enable students to understand and communicate with civil law jurists. The first part of the course surveys the historical, philosophical, and socio-cultural origins of the civil law and offers a general understanding of the civilian "style of reasoning". Concrete applications drawn from Quebec law are then explored in the second part. Attention is also paid to the particular challenges (and promises) of "mixed jurisdictions" - jurisdictions that, like Quebec, strive to maintain a civilian legal system within the confines of a larger common law system such as Canada. Though the course is not specifically designed as a comparative law course, class discussion will include a significant element of comparison with the common law. 

15% attendance and class discussion; 30% for three 500-word comments on the readings assigned for class; 55% for one 2200-word reflection paper on one of the Reading Questions included in the weekly readings for any given class (other than those for which a 500-word comment has been written).
Academic year
2022 - 2023

At a Glance

First Term
Perspective course



32 JD


T: 10:30 am - 12:20 pm