After some time with Brodies I initially planned on writing a classic ‘differences between the German and Scottish legal system’ blog based on my experiences. However, trying to write down possible differences between the two countries, more and more similarities kept coming to the fore. Instead of focusing on the differences, I therefore decided to rather point out some of the things both systems have in common.
First of all working at a big Scottish law firm in general doesn’t differ very much from working at an equal German firm – apart of course from the language and the applicable law. Here as there phone calls with clients, briefs, court dates and an always busy atmosphere shape the daily routine. The most obvious difference might be the swapped arrangement of the letters Y and Z on the keyboard, which once again stretched my nerves writing this text.
At least as far as employment law is concerned, not even the often emphasised differences between civil and common law carry much weight. The local employment law, which in contrast to other fields of law is the same throughout the whole UK, mainly derives from statutes that are interpreted by the courts. Similarly in German employment law the German Civil Code (Buergerliches Gesetzbuch) and other additional acts are the primary source of law, but case law has a significant relevance.
In addition, within the court system similarities can be found. As in Germany employment disputes are dealt with before special employment courts – Employment Tribunals and the Employment Appeal Tribunal on the one side, Arbeitsgerichte and Landesarbeitsgerichte on the other side. It’s only in further appeal stages that these disputes are dealt with before the same courts as general civil matters (Court of Appeal and Supreme Court of the United Kingdom), whereas in Germany there’s a highest federal court of appeal in employment matters (Bundesarbeitsgericht).
Finally, at my visit to the Court of Session, Scotland’s supreme court in civil and criminal matters, more commonalities became apparent. Not all lawyers, but only advocates or solicitor-advocates, who have specialist court based qualifications, have a right of audience in this court. This reminded me of the situation in civil matters – not in criminal matters though – at the German federal court of appeal in civil and criminal matters (Bundesgerichtshof), where only a few specially appointed lawyers have a right of audience.
Turns out, depending on the point of view, there are more similarities between the two countries and their legal systems than initially assumed.