Contract law and negotiation tactics in France

What do you need to know about French business culture?

Courtesy is an important aspect of French business culture. Formalities affect the way French people do business, their greetings, manners, as well as the language they use. Calling by first name is only acceptable when you are told to do so. However, it should be noted that business in France takes place on two levels. On the surface, it is polite, professional and can be considered as cold and stuffy at times. On the second level, it involves a lot of strong ties and personal relationships. It is also necessary to be well-dressed as this is a reflection of status and success.

What are negotiation tactics in France?

  • Meetings should be arranged in advance through writing or calling.
  • You should avoid holiday period in France, which usually falls in July or August, and Christmas period.
  • The French are not very strict about punctuality. Being 15 minutes late is acceptable. Particularly, the further South you go, the more casual people are regarding punctuality.
  • It is not advisable to ask personal questions.
  • Arguments are rational and focus on problem-solving.

How much is the contract worth in France?

It is notable that once the decision has been made, your counterparts still have to go through internal processes. Sometimes, even though the contract has been signed, they may come back for re-negotiation. This is also part of their negotiation tactics. A contract or agency agreement between two parties needs to be drafted with utmost care in France, as premature termination of a contract, by either party, is a difficult and highly expensive process.

What is the French legal system?

France has a Civil law system within which exists a) The Public Law and b) The Private Law. It is the private law which is known as the ‘law of the land’, under which all civil litigation cases are conducted via a local or regional court. Some contracts fall under Public Law, especially contracts with public administrations and local authorities.

What are the arbitration and litigation processes in France?


  • Commercial arbitration is applicable to any sector of the economy.
  • Arbitration is more flexible than litigation. The proceedings can be tailored on a case-by-case basis.
  • In France, arbitration tends to be more expensive than litigation.


  • Litigation is usually used to settle large commercial disputes.
  • Because the law of limitation periods was reformed in 2008, it is necessary to separate the rights of action as follow:
  • Arising from June 19, 2008: the general limitation period is five years.
  • Arising before June 19, 2008: previous limitation period is applied.
  • Lawyers from EU countries or Norway, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, and Iceland can practice law in France, depending on their original profession qualifications.

Expanding to the France can be challenging. It is advisable to research and plan thoroughly, understand the culture, legal system, and necessary procedures to optimise the outcomes of your strategy.

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