IN THE SPACE FIELD
This article explores the evolution of civil law and common law towards convergence,
briefly addressing the history of the theoretical and philosophical perspectives that
contributed to shape evolution and change within these two systems. The article analyses
general features of the centralaspects of contract theory in civil law and common law
jurisdictions. As an example of convergence in the commercial contract realm, the article
focuses on the analysis of the structure, characteristics and main clauses of the
commercial space launch services agreements in both systems, stressing their similarities
in structure, treatment and consequences.
Common lawand civil law contracts have been traditionally seen as distinctive and fairly
diverse. Each belongs to a tradition that has been regarded as quite different. However,
in several areas common law and civil law have been increasingly marching toward
The purpose of this article is to show that commercial space agreements
constitute an area where there is a clearconvergence between these two systems.
Underlying this premise is our conception that despite the view of the majority of
authors, common law – especially as applied in the United States – and civil law should
be considered as one legal tradition, ie the so called western legal tradition.
In other words, the similarities of civil law and US common law vis-à-vis other legal traditionsoutweigh their differences. This is especially visible in the commercial contract realm,
where the selected contracts are but one example. And even in those areas where there
are still striking differences both systems are slowly heading toward convergence.
Assistant Professor, Dalhousie University; Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Ottawa (2001–2002),
Doctor of Civil Law(McGill University). The author would like to thank the University of California,
Davis School of Law, particularly Beth Greenwood, and the Lauterpacht Research Centre for International
Law of the University of Cambridge, Faculty of Law, where research for this article took place.
Glenn, P.H., “Are Legal Traditions Incommensurable?” (2001) 49 Am J Comp L 133; Merryman, J.H.,
TheCivil Law Tradition: An Introduction to the Legal Systems of Western Europe and Latin America
(Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1985), p 1.
Rua, C. and Cesar, J., “The Future of the Civil Law” (1977) 37 La L Rev 645.
Gordley, J., The Philosophical Origins of Modern Contract (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991), p 1.
Rene, D. and Brierley, J.E.C., Major Legal Systems inthe World Today (London: Stevens & Sons, 3rd
edn, 1985), p 25.
Rene, D., “Existe-t-il un droit occidental?” in Kurt H. Nadelmann, Arthur T. von Mehren and John N.
Hazard (eds), XXth Century Comparative and Conflicts Law: Legal Essays in Honor of Hessel E. Yntema
(Leiden: A.W. Sijthoff, 1961), p 56.
See Gordley (n 3 above), p 1. 2
This article starts by examining theevolution of civil law and common law
toward convergence, briefly addressing the history of the theoretical and philosophical
perspectives that contributed to shape evolution and change within these two systems.
Then, the article analyses general features of the central aspects of contract theory in the
civil law and common law jurisdictions. Finally, this work focuses on the analysis ofthe
structure, characteristics and main clauses of the commercial space launch services
contracts in both systems, stressing their similarities in structure, treatment and
The findings of this work are expected to shed some light on future research on
other areas where civil law and common law also present a high degree of uniformity.