Comparing Legal Cultures in Europe - Bachelor

Undergraduate course

Course description

Objectives and Content

When coming as an exchange student to Bergen, we strongly recommend that you choose this course among the courses you will study in the spring semester. The course is taught during the first part of the semester and introduces Norwegian legal culture, while at the same time inviting you to reflect upon your own country's legal culture from a comparative perspective. The course is co-taught with a course which is mandatory for the Norwegian law students, which means that around half of the students in the classroom will be Norwegian, while the other half will be international students from several different countries. You will work together with both international and Norwegian students on a group assignment where you will together study a selected area of law and find out how the different countries represented in the group, have different approaches to regulating that area of law. There will also be social and cultural activities for the students of the course, so this course serves also as an introduction to your semester in Bergen, and to getting to know the local students.

In an era of strong internationalisation of law, lawyers need an understanding of foreign legal cultures and comparative legal methods. By engaging in legal historical and comparative studies of Norwegian and selected foreign legal cultures, students gain knowledge and skills essential for contemporary lawyers, including new perspectives of law, understanding legal change and skills needed for cross-border cooperation. A systematic analysis of law in context requires applying an operationalised concept of legal culture which can provide knowledge and understanding of how the law is produced and applied in different legal orders. Comparing legal cultures historically and comparatively will enable students to identify, explain and analyse similarities and differences among legal cultures.

The overall aim of the course is, first, to enhance the student's ability to understand, evaluate, discuss, and critically analyse law from a comparative perspective. Second, the course aims at enhancing the students' skills to reflect academically. This encompasses the basic criteria for using proper references, stylistic choices, identification of the "research" question and conclusions. Furthermore, students will be able to review academic texts critically. Third, the course offers an opportunity to get into contact and cooperate with Norwegian students. Fourth, the course provides basic knowledge regarding the methods, aims and functions of legal historical research and an understanding of the historical roots of the contemporary legal cultures of especially England, Scotland, Germany, and Norway. Fifth, the course allows students to acquire and use English vocabulary in comparative law.

As mentioned, a group assignment will be carried out in mixed groups consisting of international students from different countries and legal backgrounds, and Norwegian students. This will make a fertile environment for learning to communicate with lawyers from different legal-cultural and linguistic backgrounds.

In short, the goals are:

  1. Learn to appreciate and actively use the legal cultural model as an analytical tool for legal comparative analysis.
  2. Increase students' understanding of the legal cultures of England, Scotland, Norway and Germany from a comparative perspective.
  3. Improve their ability to communicate with members from other legal cultures and critically evaluate legal cultural challenges, developments and changes both domestically and abroad.

Improve their skills in writing and communication academic English and identify and overcome potential challenges when working with lawyers or other professionals in an international environment.

Learning Outcomes

At the end of this course, you should be able to:

  • identify the main structural elements and the subcategories of the Legal Cultural Model
  • describe the difference between a narrow and a wide concept of legal culture,
  • describe and explain changes within and interaction between elements of the legal-cultural model,
  • describe the historical preconditions and developments of the Norwegian and other (selected) legal cultures,
  • identify the central features of the English, Scottish, German, Norwegian and other Nordic legal cultures,
  • explain basic concepts in legal comparative methods including the object of comparison, selection of jurisdictions studied, the comparative method and identification and explanation of similarities and differences,
  • describe the basic requirements for producing, structuring, and evaluating academic texts, including when and how to make references to sources.
  • cooperate with law students from other countries, and gain perspectives on common legal challenges from students from a legal background different than their own,
  • contribute with perspectives from their own country and legal background.

In addition, you should be able to

  • use the Legal Cultural Model in combination with the functional and historical approach to legal comparative research to
  • identify,
  • describe,
  • categorise,
  • explain
  • and discuss both orally and in writing differences and similarities of institutionalised forms of norm production and conflict resolution as well as the prevailing ideal of justice, legal methods, the degree of and attitude towards professionalization and internationalisation of law and its impacts on the English, Scottish, Norwegian and German legal culture.
  • conduct legal comparisons by identifying the object of comparison, selecting appropriate jurisdictions, selecting an appropriate method of comparison, identifying similarities and differences, and providing plausible explanations for the findings (cf. the COMPASS formula),
  • discuss the merits and limitations of classifications particularly the distinction between civil- and common law, comparative methods, and selected key concepts in comparative law,
  • write and critically assess academic texts in both Norwegian and English.

You should improve your ability to

  • appreciate the importance of historical perspectives on domestic and other legal cultures,
  • appreciate law as a legal-culturally embedded phenomenon,
  • critically evaluate the narrative of different legal traditions in Europe, and
  • discuss possible challenges and solutions for, but also limits to, the harmonization of legal cultures in Europe
  • interpret, discuss and develop legal domestic solutions based on value-based assessments and relevant policy considerations taking into account the specific legal cultural context in which the solution is meant to produce effects.
  • communicate both orally and in writing in English by
  • critically apply established legal comparative terminology and methods and
  • to work independently as well as in groups
  • present and evaluate legal analyses and points of view in English, both orally and in writing

ECTS Credits


Level of Study

Bachelor level

Semester of Instruction


Place of Instruction

Faculty of Law, University of Bergen
Required Previous Knowledge
Two years of law studies.
Recommended Previous Knowledge
Good level of English language
Credit Reduction due to Course Overlap

Combined with JUS134 Rettshistorie og komparativ rett, JUS232 Rettshistorie og komparativ rett, JUS290-2-A Comparing Legal Cultures in Europe or JUS2320 Comparing Legal Cultures in Europe, the course will generate no new credits.

Combines successfully with

JUS2317/JUS5317Comparative European Constitutional Law

JUS23XX Introduction to Chinese Law

Access to the Course

The course is available for the following students:

  • Exchange students at the Faculty of Law

The pre-requirements may still limit certain students' access to the course

Teaching and learning methods
Lectures and seminars
Compulsory Assignments and Attendance

One paper maximum 5000 words written by teams of 5 - 6 students. The individual contributions are limited to 1000 words. The paper will be peer assessed by fellow students in addition to receiving a teacher's review. All students are expected to submit peer comments.

The assignments are considered both as a whole and in their individual parts with pass/fail (not part of the final grading). Contribution to the group paper and peer assessment is mandatory. Only students who have met both individual and group requirements are admitted to the final home exam.

Forms of Assessment

Home exam. Maximum 2000 words in total.

Students who do not pass the examination may re-sit in the following semester if the mandatory assignment or activity has been approved and when the examination result is due to
- legitimate reason for non-attendance (see Section 3-7, paragraph 3 b in the Supplementary Regulations)
- failed result

For rules regarding voluntary re-sit, see Section 3-5.

Exam language:

  • Question paper: English
  • Answer paper: English
Grading Scale
A - E for passed, F for failed.
Assessment Semester
Reading List
The reading list will be ready 1 December for the spring semester.
Course Evaluation
According to the administrative arrangements for course evaluation at the Faculty of Law
Examination Support Material
Open book exam.
Programme Committee
The Academic Affairs Committee (Studieutvalget) at the Faculty of Law is responsible for ensuring the material content, structure and quality of the course.
Course Coordinator
Professor Søren Koch
Course Administrator
The Faculty of Law's section for students and academic affairs (Studieseksjonen) is responsible for administering the programme.