English used in German Chambers for commercial matters

Will its use make Germany and German law a more attractive option for cross-border commercial litigation after Brexit?

The UK legal market has a strong global position due to the popularity of English law and the English language: some 27% of the world's 320 legal jurisdictions use English Common law. Many private companies also choose to use English for the drafting of their contracts and during ARD, and with the language comes the choice of English law. Further to this, EU membership and the adoption of the current EU regulations on the enforcement of court orders make English orders enforceable throughout the EU in a simple and quick manner in certain qualifying cases.

But might this all this change after Brexit?

The use of the German language for international contracts (that is by non-German speaking parties) is not a common choice. But German law, based on a high degree of codification and the publication of rulings, is very precise, efficient and predictable. And litigation costs before a German court are rather low and highly predictable

Could this change if parties were allowed to use the English language?

The introduction of English chambers for international commerce into the German judicial system has long been debated, called for or piloted. Now, with Brexit looming and the uncertainty about the possibility of continuing to easily enforce English rulings in Europe, the issue has gained new traction.

Unfortunately, the KfiHG bill (Entwurf eines Gesetzes zur Einführung von Kammern für internationale Handelssachen), which sets up chambers that would hear entire cases in English at regional and high courts, failed to get off the ground due to the discontinuity principle – the Bundestag did not debate it during its 18th term of office.

However, recognising that the use of the English language could be an advantage for relaunching German courts on an international level, the Landesgericht Frankfurt am Main plans to install an English-speaking chamber in commercial matters from January 2018.

The goal is to strengthen Frankfurt as a place of jurisdiction and to offer entrepreneurs the choice to do business in English. In the words of Dr. Wilhelm Wolf, President of the Landgericht Frankfurt, „Gerade nach dem Austritt Großbritanniens aus der EU sehen wir eine Chance, Frankfurt als internationalen Gerichtsstandort zu etablieren. Denn nach dem BREXIT wird es nicht mehr ohne weiteres möglich sein, englische Urteile innerhalb der Europäischen Union zu vollstrecken. Wir werben dafür, internationale Verfahren, die bislang in Großbritannien geführt wurden, nach Frankfurt zu bringen. Frankfurt ist aufgrund seiner Lage, seiner Verkehrs- und Infrastruktur und der besonderen wirtschaftsrechtlichen Kompetenz der richtige Standort.“ (Press release, Ordentliche Gerichtsbarkeit Hessen).

If a party to a commercial case requests the use of English, the case will be automatically allocated to the English-speaking chamber for commercial matters. If both parties agree, the hearing will be conducted in English.

The local ministry of justice has voiced her support for the initiative.