Charlie Bavington

French to English Freelance Translator - I.T. specialist

Bringing a pragmatic eye to meeting your needs

Event: UKTI Legal webinar

December 10th, 2013 | Categories: business

Avid readers will recall that last month, by virtue of following @UKTIFrance on Twitter, I attended a webinar on “The French Economy”. This month, the same organisation presented one on “Legal Aspects of Doing Business in France”, given by an English lawyer who has been practising in France for 20 years.

As with the previous webinar, some of the content would already be known to anyone who has been translating French business documents for more than about a month, but it was nonetheless interesting to see what an expert considered the salient points to be (and the English terms he used to refer to them). Unlike the previous webinar, the importance of translation was underlined several times, so hurrah for that!

Naturally, the speaker started by stating that the legal systems are very different (France versus GB, that is), highly codified and all that jazz. With the target audience being folks interested in doing business in France, the asides or details tended to be with that aspect in mind. So while we didn’t get (and didn’t need) info on the structures of all the types of court France has, we were informed that commercial courts (relevant as often mentioned in contract jurisdiction clauses) are local courts, the judges are volunteers, usually not legally trained, everyone involved knows each other, and the evidence is very much based on documentation. Draw your own conclusions.

Another interesting snippet arose during a section on points of contact in France (e.g. chambers of commerce & industry, which are funded by local business taxes). The
Greffe du Tribunal de Commerce (clerks’ office of the not at all crony-ist commercial court) is where companies are actually registered and accounts filed (information is available online and you can pay for it by credit card) and apparently some companies deliberately do not file accounts and opt to pay the relevant fines instead to avoid disclosing information to competitors (especially some supermarkets, it seems). Despite my brief yet glorious career in credit insurance, this nugget had passed me by.

My third and final “I-never-twigged-that” point is the old chestnut about France as the world champions of bureaucracy. Every business has to fit into an administrative box, its APE (trade sector) code, which is not (as I had previously assumed) just for the benefit of statisticians. It brings with it sector regulations, collective bargaining agreements (which I knew were sector-specific, I just never made the connection before), specific tax arrangements, etc. The presenter gave an example of a tarpaulin manufacturer, where the proportion of canvas to plastic (or vice versa) in the tarpaulin had quite significant implications in terms of tax and regulation.

I’ve omitted a great deal in terms of an overview of the content in favour of a couple of asides and anecdotes, but I hope they give a flavour of both the style and value of the webinar. There was, for example, information on insolvency and a brief mention of debt collection. The differences between the various types of sales rep came up (handy for me since I had a commercial agent agreement in my in-box at that very moment). In brief, while not unmissable, it is certainly worth an hour of anyone’s time (well, any Fr-Eng translator, at least). And due to be repeated in the New Year. So, follow @UKTIFrance and await details.

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