An extensive refurbishment of French civil law is expected to lead to chaos throughout the country's legal system.

Leading lawyers have commented that the rewrite - the first since the days of Napoleon I - could threaten the validity of almost every commercial contract signed in the country.

The reform of 'Code civil', initially drafted in 1804, was announced by the country's justice minister Christiane Taubira in February this year. The aim of such upheaval is to simplify the law in France and as a result bring it into line with international standards.

It is no secret that 'Code civil' required drastic modernisation with phrases such as 'bonnes moeurs' (good morals) being cut out of the legislation altogether.

‘The language of the 18th century, admirable as it might be, is not well adapted to 21st century conversations,’ Carole Champalaune, head of civil affairs at the ministry, commented.

City lawyers and academic experts say the reform is being conducted in haste, with inadequate consultation, and that it introduces measures which would open commercial contracts to judicial challenge if a party later changed their mind.

‘It is extremely worrying,’ said Michel Frieh, managing partner of international firm DLA Piper. ‘This is a key reform of all aspects of contract law which introduces completely new concepts which threaten the security of contracts.’

The reforms are being introduced under umbrella legislation which has allowed them to become law without full parliamentary scrutiny. Concerns have been raised that as a result, inappropriate concepts within the reforms could cause a great deal of damage to other areas of existing law.

Frieh commented that the damage inflicted could result in an ‘open season for challenges' and subsequently, a significant amount of unwanted pressure being piled upon the civil courts.

Although formal consultation on the draft legislation has now ended, opposition is rife. DLA Piper, Cercle Montesquieu and a number of other leading French companies have set up a group to propose amendments.

An ally could perhaps be found in French economy minister Emmanuel Macron, who is reported to be 'incensed' about his lack of involvement within the proposed reforms. However, embroiled in other controversies over plans for legal service deregulation, his active support appears unlikely at present.

What is clear at the moment is that it is a situation certainly worth keeping an eye on!