Publicamos hoy un artículo con dos novedades: la primera, que está escrito en el marco de una colaboración de HD Joven con estudiantes que están cursando un master internacional en el Instituto de Empresa, en una mesa redonda; en segundo lugar, que lo publicamos en inglés, idioma en que está escrito. No obstante, para los lectores que no estén demasiado versados en la lengua de Shakespeare y Beckham, ofrecemos en el siguiente enlace (Globalización, desafíos e innovación-Gracia Pujadas) una traducción realizada por la misma autora.
The study of Law is experiencing changes in different universities around the world. Instead of the traditional approach consisting of studying Law in a given country, learning domestic law so as to qualify there, the trend is now moving towards a more international, comparative way of approaching the Law. According to Jan M. Smits, a Law professor at Maastricht University (The Netherlands), Maastricht University itself and McGill University (Canada) were pioneers in developing and pursuing such an innovative change in the legal education of today’s students, which IE University is also following in Spain.
IEU Law Society and HD Joven organized a round table so that this topic, inter alia, could be discussed, focusing on whether studying Law abroad is beneficial. For instance, we also had an exciting debate concerning the importance of hard skills and its prevalence over soft skills.
The main reason for supporting a comparative approach to the study of Law is the outstanding globalization our society is witnessing. Law cannot be reduced to mere rules and norms within national borders. On the contrary, Law is often beyond its domestic limits in the formation of contracts between national and foreign companies or in an increasing number of matters affecting the private life of the so-called “global citizens” and inevitably dealing with different jurisdictions. Both situations are just examples which acknowledge that students should be trained to solve these issues in an international context governed by legal diversity. Therefore, students need to be aware of and exposed to the differences across legal systems.
Nowadays, there are big trends of crucial relevance, such as the migration of people and the existence of multicultural societies, the globalization of the economy and the global movement of capital, the growth of world law and the increase in regulation; all of which have a huge impact on how lawyers work and require that all lawyers become, at least in some way, comparative lawyers.
One of the positive aspects of globalization is that workers can easily find a challenging job abroad and lead a more international lifestyle. Any professional has access to this: bankers, doctors, mechanics, engineers, journalists, university professors, analysts… Everyone can work anywhere in the world. And so do lawyers. In fact, it is always said that Law is about adapting; nowadays, because of all this process of internationalization, that has become even more real.
Indeed, there is scope for introducing any kind of international aspect in the study of Law. An example of the internationalization of the Law is the effort to create relevant international treaties, European Union law and similar types of legislation trying to regulate issues at an international level; indeed, domestic law is no longer enough: even our way of understanding it is already changing.
Critics of Comparative law must not be mistaken, as the goal of a Comparative law student is a different one from becoming an expert in every jurisdiction. He is forced to be an expert in one jurisdiction but has the advantage of acknowledging the differences between systems. There are not only significant differences among systems, but also among countries within the same system. A Comparative lawyer is not an expert in Civil, Common, Nordic, Asian and Sharia law but he is comfortable looking into jurisdictions he is ignorant about because he knows how to deal with the differences and solve those situations involving foreign elements.
It is true that not every lawyer deals with international cases during his career. Nevertheless, the fact that Law is a very competitive profession implies the need of better trained lawyers every day. There are already lawyers who are well versed in Comparative law and with international experience. Therefore, not having that education, nor that experience, is a drawback for such lawyers regardless of how their professional careers are oriented. For instance, it pushes those lawyers down in the list of favorites in a competitive selection process in any firm, unless other relevant merits are proven. Moreover, independent lawyers who set up their own firm are faced with an increasing amount of lawyers prepared in consideration of the international legal pluralism.
While this comparative approach is beyond any doubt a desirable and necessary requirement for today’s lawyers, it can be argued whether it should be learnt at an undergraduate level. We could be inclined to assert that touching only the surface of different jurisdictions, without going into depth and detail, is not worth it if students are not previously acquainted with, at least, one jurisdiction. Nevertheless, professor Jan M. Smits supports that Law students should be exposed to Comparative law since the very beginning of their legal education and provides arguments for it in his paper “European Legal Education, or: How to prepare students for global citizenship?” These arguments stem from the fact that, in professor Smits’ view, during the first months of their legal studies, students must be “imprinted with what it means to study law”, in the sense that lawyers’ minds are shaped at the beginning of their education. He then refers to professor Jaakko Husa so as to explain that the traditional approach creates what he calls a “mono-epistemic platform” (i.e. students think of their own system as the “normal” one and of foreign systems as not normal, or at least less-normal) that immerses students in a one-approach thinking which will prevent them from truly accepting and adapting to “transnational pluralism”. Thus, professor Smits concludes, exposure to Comparative law at an undergraduate level is crucial so as to ensure the effectiveness of the “integrative model”, the simultaneous examination and contrast of the different legal systems.
The problem is that the combination of theory on several jurisdictions and practical cases leaves no time for the detailed study of domestic law at university. In my opinion, however, the need to adapt to what is demanded irrevocably leaves them no other option. And, in the end, they will be extremely well prepared for the work they will be required to perform in this competitive and international environment. Thus, the comparative approach will be a way of differentiating themselves from other Law students and also, a priceless asset for any multinational law firm.
A Comparative law student is taught the basics of the various systems at university, with their main particularities. However, studying Comparative law requires more individual effort on the students’ side because they have to work on their own through excellence in one jurisdiction. Do allow me to make one daring comparison: who are the jurists that have the broadest and most vast knowledge of the law? All those lawyers or jurists who, for example public notaries, succeed in competitive state examinations: competent and constant jurists that, in Civil law countries like Spain, study the law and prepare these state exams on their own for many years. By analogy, Comparative law students who study to excel in one jurisdiction, benefiting from having a comparative background, must be perseverant and hard-workers. Otherwise, it is difficult to succeed. This special trait of Comparative law students, together with the fact that, in the end, they are just more qualified since they have achieved a broader legal knowledge, already makes them attractive targets for leading law firms and future clients.
Comparative law students are also intellectually-curious people who think that just one jurisdiction is simply not enough. They are students who are passionate about the Law and want to gain a solid knowledge of the Law, not simply national law, but “the Law”.
I am for an international legal education, and so are professor J.M. Smits and an increasing number of jurists, professors and professionals around the globe supporting the comparative approach. Law is very traditional – in fact it was one of the first degrees to be taught in universities – but the globalized world is pushing us towards innovation in every field, so let’s not make the study of Law an exception. Being Law so traditional makes some jurists oppose Comparative law as the best approach. After all, Law has always evolved together with society, adapting itself to the different challenges and circumstances that have taken place throughout the centuries.