French Legal Research Guide

This in-depth guide will help researchers navigate French legal materials.


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In addition to the resources below, consult the Foreign Law Guide, an online guides to researching the law of about 190 jurisdictions around the world. The entry for France includes legal-historical background materials, a list of the primary sources for statutes, regulations, case law and other sources of law, individual laws listed by subject heading, Internet sources for French legal resources, and a selection of English-language translations. French statutes are not available on Lexis or Westlaw.

The codes are divided into parts: L.O. (lois organiques; organic laws) and L. (lois ordinaires; ordinary laws) which are regrouped in the legislative part; R. (réglements; decrees of the Conseil d’État) and D. (décrets; simple decrees) which are regrouped in the regulation part.

English Translations

Some French laws are translated into English. Note that English translations are never official and they may not reflect recent changes in the law. Here is a sampling of some of the most commonly used codes and their availability in both print and electronic formats:

Code civil (Civil Code)

The Code civil is the official federal law for France. We have the Code civil as published by Dalloz dating back to 1975 (in French).

  • Official version is available through through Légifrance
  • Unofficial English translation of the Code Civil text also available through Légifrance
  • Code Civil in print at KJV 444.2 1804.A2 (through 2020).

Code de commerce (Commercial Code)

  • Official version is available through Légifrance (in French)
  • Available in print from 1986 to present at KJV2194.3 .A52 (through 2020).

Code de procédure civile (nouveau) (Code of Civil Procedure)

  • Replaced the previous Code de procedure civile in 1976
  • Official version is available through Légifrance (in French)
  • In print from 1986 to present at KJV3933.4 .A52 (current through 2022).

Code de procédure pénal (Code of Criminal Procedure)

  • Official version available online at Légifrance (in French)
  • In print, available from 1975-76 and then 1985 to present at KJV8412.4 .A52 (through 2020).

Code pénal (Penal Code)

  • Official version available online at Légifrance (in French)
  • Like the Code de procédure civile, the Code pénal was replaced by a new one (in 1994). Thus, we have two print collections for it: one for the older code (1986–1992) and another for its replacement (1994–present). They can be accessed at KJV7982 .A52 (through 2022).

Other statutes

Journal Officiel de la République Française. Lois et Décrets
Official gazette of published laws and executive regulations; also includes proposed bills and parliamentary debates.

  • Available online through Légifrance (1990–present)
  • On microform at Georgetown Law Library: KJV17.F72 Micro (1988–2003)

Translated statutes

  • French Law: Constitution and Selective Legislation, George A. Bermann & Vivian Grosswald Curran KJV4073.6 .F73 1981
    This looseleaf set contains continuing English translations of essential investment, trade and commerce laws between France and other countries. 
  • Introduction to French Law (2nd ed.), George A. Bermann & Etienne Picard eds. KJV237 .I58 2012
    A practical and concise book that covers the complexity of the French legal system in 17 chapters. Different authors offer their expertise on various fields to ensure that each subject is discussed in detail, both substantive and procedural.
  • The Making of Law: An Ethnography of the Conseil d’État, Bruno Latour KJV4385 .L3713 2010
    This book gives the reader an inside look at how judges on the Council of State come to their decisions and what they do to remain objective while on the bench.
  • French Administrative Law and the Common-Law World, Bernard Schwartz K3400 .S38 1954
    A comparative look at administrative law in the civil law jurisdiction of France versus common law jurisdictions like the United Kingdom and the United States.
  • French Law: A Comparative Approach, Eva Steiner KJV284 .S74 2010; also available electronically
    This book utilizes a comparative method throughout to highlight the distinctions in French law when viewed alongside other jurisdictions. In addition to looking at the basic legal foundation of France, the book also focuses on French property, contract and tort laws.