A fascinating conference took place at Harvard Law School on 12th April on the subject of – The Global Legal Profession. The conference focussed on the need for a Global Legal Profession and how to train global lawyers.
Now part of me would love to be able call myself a Solicitor of THE WORLD, rather than the more humble Solicitor of England and Wales. But vanity apart, the idea is rather scary. I can see why multi-national companies who trade across borders might be attracted to the idea of a single legal system that they could rely on.
But for most the world this misses the point of what a legal system is all about. It is to ensure the smooth and safe running of a society. That must be affected by local cultural factors. What might be a major concern in one region will have a different emphasis somewhere else. So how could the laws on divorce in one country be brought into line with another where the philosophy is completely different?
It is true that many of the world’s biggest law firms operate across jurisdictions but they have to work within the laws of that country.
I think that that is where my biggest concern would lie. Globalisation, in reality, normally means exporting of the standards of the West and in particular those of the USA. It is interesting that this initiative is coming from the USA’s top Law School. I suspect that a global legal system and global lawyers would be heavily skewed in favour of western standards and culture. How would those promoting this idea react if there was a movement to create global laws that did not benefit the West?
Such a move would also make the law and lawyers even more removed from ordinary citizens. Jonathan Goldsmith, Secretary General of the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe writes in the Law society’s Gazette – ‘…it is not the global citizen – the person on the street in India who needs a will,, or the abused wife in Brazil who needs a divorce let alone the man or woman on the Clapham Omnibus in the UK – who is talking about a global legal profession.’
The Law is there to protect the rights of all members of society. Any move to take issues to a global stage would undermine that aim and only benefit the wealthiest countries at the expense of local citizens everywhere.