Pin Me

Understanding Correct German for Conducting Legal Business in Germany

written by: Bright Hub Education Writer • edited by: Rebecca Scudder • updated: 1/29/2013

Do you have some legal business in Germany? Learn the words you need if you inherit something, wish to buy a property or need to make a claim due to an accident in Germany.

  • slide 1 of 4

    Gesetzbücher - Codes of Law

    German law is very different than Anglo-Saxon law. It's based on codified law as opposed to case law, and has developed from the principles of Roman and Germanic law. The basic statutes and laws are collected in these very important collections of codes:

    Gesetz - Statute

    Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch (BGB) (n) - Civil Code

    Strafgesetzbuch (StGB) (n) - Criminal Code

    Handelsgesetzbuch (HGB) (n)- Commercial Code

    Zivilprozeßordnung (ZPO) (f)- Civil Procedure

    Strafprozeßordnung (StPO) (f) - Criminal Procedure

    All five are loose leaf collections in red binders, seen in the offices of all courts and attorneys. They are updated regularly as Parliament changes or adds to the statutes. Apart from those five, there are of course many more statues and regulations.

  • slide 2 of 4

    Gericht - Courts of Law

    Gericht (n) - Court of Law

    Germany has, in ascending order, the following courts of law:

    Amtsgericht (n) - County Court

    Landgericht (n) - Provincial Court

    Arbeitsgericht (n) - if you have problems with your employment or have been unfairly dismissed, you go to this court

    Oberlandesgericht (n) - Court of appeal for LG

    Bundesgerichtshof (m) - Federal Court

    Schöffengericht - Jury. Jurors play a far less significant role in the German legal system than they do in the US. They are only involved in criminal matters, never in civil cases, and are therefore not called upon to assess or award damages. That's the job of the judge, either on his own in the Amtsgerichts or with two or four colleagues in the higher courts. They then decide as a Kammer or chamber.

    Bundesverfassungsgericht (n) - Highest court which deals with matters of the Constitution

    Grundgesetz (n) - German Constitution

  • slide 3 of 4

    Legal professions

    Richter (m) - judge

    Rechtsanwalt (m) - attorney

    The assistance of a Rechtsanwalt is obligatory in Germany, with the exception of the country court, where you can represent yourself. Rechtsanwälte wear a black toga when in court, but not a wig, which is the attire of judges and barristers in the UK. Fees for your attorney's services are based on a statute, but following global influence, they can and often are now agreed between client and attorney. Notary fees are always based on fixed scales and it's illegal to change them.

    Assesor (m) - trainee attorney

    Verteidiger - defender

    Pflichtverteidiger - public defender

    Staatsanwalt - prosecutor

    Armenrecht - legal aid

    Gebühren - fees

    Notar - notary

    Contrary to the UK and the US, the notary is a very important figure in the German legal system. His assistance is obligatory with any sale/purchase of real estate, probate and making of wills and the incorporation of companies, to name but a few. Contracts relating to the above matters and not signed and executed before a notary are not valid.

    Judges and prosecutors are not elected by the public in Germany. All legal professions are chosen careers, and advancement of a judge from a lower court to a higher one is by merit only.

  • slide 4 of 4

    Legal terms

    Gesellschaft (f) - corporation

    Gesellschaftsgründung (f) - incorporation

    Gesellschaftsvertrag (m) - deeds of incorporation

    Testament (n) - will

    Zeuge (m) - witness

    Verwandte (f) - relatives

    Vater (m) - father

    Mutter (f) - mother

    Kinder (f) - children

    Erbe (m) - beneficiary

    Nachlass (m) - estate

    Testamentseröffnung (f) - reading of the will

    Erbschein (m) - Grant of probate

    Kaufvertrag (m) - purchase contract

    Käufer (m) - buyer

    Verkäufer (m) - seller

    Miete (f) - lease

    Grundbuch (n) - land registry

    Grundbuchauszug (m) - land registry extract

    Klage (f) - writ

    Kläger (m) - plaintiff

    Beklagter (m) - defendant

    Schmerzensgeld (n) - damages

    Urteil (n) - judgment

    Berufung (f) - appeal

    Gerichtsvollzieher (m) - bailiff