Tuesday, February 6, 2024
Date : February 6, 2024
To : Young Lawyers


I sincerely thank Prof. Jabeur Fathally, Ph.D., Executive Director of JuriGlobe, for agreeing to do this interview. CY


CY: Professor Fathally, we hear of a “globalizing world” in many contexts and professional fields. In your opinion, how is a globalized legal profession different from the traditional understanding?


JF: I think globalization is a generic notion that means many things simultaneously (it has economic, socio-cultural, political, and military meanings, etc.). It is also understood differently depending on the country and according to economic and professional groups. For some, globalization is synonymous with Americanization and/or with Westernization. In contrast, for others, it is synonymous with freedom in opposition to those who associate it with hegemony and new forms of colonization.

These divergences are also valid for the globalization of the legal profession.” The latter could be seen and considered from different perspectives: for some, it is the illustration of the extension of Anglo-American legal practice throughout the world (look at the dizzying expansion of American and British law firms: It is a form of extension of economic power and according to the World Bank’s “Doing Business” reports an affirmation of the pragmatism of Common Law; for others, this globalization is a manifestation of a necessary dialogue between legal systems, a kind recognition of the validity of legal diversity far from any form of hermeticism and rejection of the Other. It is this perspective that underlies the work of the JuriGlobe research group. There is no one-size-fits-all. However, technological progress and means of telecommunications have greatly influenced legal practice. Today’s methods and forms of teaching law or practicing it before the courts differ from 40 or even 20

 years ago. The expansion of law firms beyond national borders and the use of new technologies (i.e., electronic signature) in legal procedures are just a few of these changes. Needless to add, the rapid development of global trade and financial transactions now requires lawyers to be familiar with other legal systems to serve their international clients and resolve complex disputes. Lawyers must adapt to this reality.


CY: What is JuriGlobe, and what drove you to work on such a project?


JF: The first factor has already been mentioned in my answer to your first question. Indeed, since the first decade of this century, the World Bank has always supported – mainly in its “Doing Business” reports – the thesis according to which the legal system, its formation, and its foundations impact the economic growth and the flow of investments and free movement of capital (which is accurate). However, the Bank – and other authors – argue that common law, characterized by its pragmatism, is the legal system that can best promote economic growth. These reports and studies were behind the creation of JuriGlobe by professors emeritus Louis-Perret and Alain François Bisson, lawyer Nicola Mariani (who has already worked on a project on legal systems), and myself. 

We have rightly noted that the World Bank report suffers from numerous methodological limitations and inadequacies, mainly in its simplistic presentation of the civil law tradition and its neglectful omission of other legal systems, mainly Muslim and customary. Therefore, JuriGlobe aimed to provide a quantified and mapped image, as objective as possible, of the economic, geographical, demographic, and even linguistic strength (relationship between legal systems and languages) of the different legal systems.

The second factor is an educational and doctrinal order. It is to provide a new classification of legal systems not only of legal systems (1st project/book) but also of constitutional systems (worldwide) by mobilizing specific methodological criteria that consider the history of institutions and especially of their interactions with reality (2nd project/book).


CY: Who are the most frequent and/or effective user groups of JuriGlobe?


JF: Based on the numerous emails we have received, the hundreds of studies (books, articles, comments, etc.) referring to JuriGlobe’s data and maps, and the hundreds of thousands of JuriGlobe’s website visits (www.JuriGlobe.ca), I can say that the primary users are members of the legal academic community – at large- (i.e., professors, students, researchers, institutes and research centers, government services). According to Google Analytics, users come from all over the world, such as American, British, Canadian, French, and Chinese institutions, to name only the first five.


CY: How does JuriGlobe serve the needs of contemporary legal professionals and law students? As a visual educational tool, research tool, awareness-raising instrument, or all of the above.


JF: JuriGlobe‘s work has become an essential source for teaching comparative and international law worldwide. It is included in most research catalogs of Western and other universities. It is almost rare for a researcher in the field of comparative law not to benefit from the work of JuriGlobe.


CY: The color-coded global interactive map of legal systems and other regional maps are the most striking features of the JuriGlobe website; for those of our readers who are new to the project, please briefly navigate us through the different sections and resources available on the website.


JF: Our maps of the different legal systems have become our brand images. Our website is easy to use and very accessible. All you need is to choose your preferred language among the six working languages ​​of JuriGlobe (the 6 U.N. official languages ​​: English, Arabic, Chinese, Spanish, French, and Russian) to access the different JuriGlobe projects and themes. Our project on legal systems has eight sections/Chapters in addition to a specific and general bibliography. These sections are related respectively to :


Legal System’ Classification


Each chapter is divided into several sub-chapters to allow users to access the various related economic, demographic, geographic, and linguistic data. Figures, statistics, graphs, and maps illustrate the correlations between the different components of our studies. However, it is essential to read the introductory remarks carefully to contextualize better and understand all the data presented in the thousands of pages on www.JuriGlobe.ca


CY: Considering contemporary legal, economic, and societal issues, can you explain why lawyers must deal with and analyze the “other”? From your professional experience, how do you interpret comparative law’s potential to broaden legal perspectives?


JF: The French expression that says, “l’autre c’est nous (The other is us or Every other is a self like myself)” is not lacking in accuracy. Since antiquity, knowing the other has been central to philosophical and legal thought. 

However, the question is always: Why should we know this “other,” and how should we know him/her? The answers to these questions divide legal doctrine. From my professional experience, comparative law -as a field of legal knowledge – remains the best vehicle for better-understanding others (legal systems) and engaging in a dialogue that can only benefit humanity. Unfortunately, this has not often been the case. Until the first half of the last century, knowledge of foreign law aimed to show the superiority of one culture over another, not to mention the belittling and enslavement of other legal traditions. To be convinced of this, it is enough to study the so-called theory of classification of legal systems, which marked legal doctrine until the second half of the last century. Things have changed since the end of the Cold War; more serious, more scientific, and less ideological comparative studies have emerged, as well as doctrines that promote respectful dialogue and mutual knowledge of different law systems. The field of comparative law was no longer limited to the study of different Euro-American legislation (remember that less than a century ago, other traditions were accused of barbarism or uncivilization). Today, comparatists and law faculties cannot ignore the importance of non-European-American legal systems, such as Chinese, Islamic, and indigenous law. As important as it is, this decolonization movement of comparative law is unfortunately not immune to the geopolitical and geo-economic changes our world is experiencing.


CY: You have noted that one of the objectives of the JuriGlobe project is to stimulate discussions on the proper governance of globalization. You also mentioned that comments served as testimonials for the importance of this project and guidance for the construction of the second edition. Please tell us what kinds of comments you received from the global legal community and how these impacted your improvement structure.


JF: We have received numerous comments – and praise – confirming the importance of JuriGlobe as a tool for teaching comparative law and international law. The ease of use of the website, the clarity of our classification criteria, and the taking into account systemic differences within each State (hence our choice to use the notion of political entity) are among the aspects often mentioned in the emails and letters we receive. Add to that the multiple requests for reproductions of JuriGlobe data and maps for publication and educational purposes. I can assure you that the Canadian and international legal community has received JuriGlobe’s work with enthusiasm and deep interest. However, as we made it clear in our introduction, our work remains doctrinal, far from claiming perfection.


CY: What additions would you consider if you were to work on a new 2023 version of the website?


JF: That reflection is already underway. The component of indigenous law, particularly in certain jurisdictions, notably in Canada, deserves a renewed look within the framework of the study of customary systems. Also, specific figures and numbers should be updated.


CY: Besides the English and French versions, there are several other versions of JuriGlobe in Spanish, Mandarin, Russian, and Arabic. What was the primary purpose of adding these to the project? Do you plan to add more languages to this selection?


JF: The objective is to reach as many researchers as possible around the world. We have opted for the six languages ​​of the United Nations. We want to add other languages, mainly German, and even one language among the many languages ​​of the indigenous people in Canada. However, our financial means are very limited and do not allow us, for the moment, to add more languages.


CY: In your introductory remarks, you outline five categories of legal systems: Civil Law, Common Law, Customary Law, Muslim Law, and Mixed Systems. To help our readers make the most of the project, please elaborate on JuriGlobe classification approach.


JF: First, I must point out that this is an attempt at classification, among others, developed by the community of comparativists. Unlike several other classifications, we have not limited ourselves to a purely formal criterion. We have given greater importance to the methodological and technical aspects of the legal systems, to legal concepts, and to methods of developing and expressing law.

The methodology of creating legal norms and the underlying philosophy that guides its creation allowed us to establish this classification.

As indicated in our work, this criterion has the merit of enabling us to identify easily recognizable categories for the international legal community. Additionally, this classification (and the criteria used) better reflects the reality of legal systems worldwide and better responds to the immediate reality of our Canadian legal and linguistics context and our pedagogical needs at the Faculty of Law at the University of Ottawa. It is an intellectual effort that does not claim perfection. As we indicated in our methodological remarks, five categories were selected for the creation of this Website on World Legal Systems: Civil law, Common law, Customary law, Muslim law, and Mixed law systems, the latter referring not to a single system but to a combination of systems.


CY: When looking at the distribution of the world GDP according to the legal systems and their various components, we see that common law and civil law mono systems account for almost three-quarters of the world GDP. Does this distribution indicate an advantage of having a mono system? Have you derived any other takeaways you could share from this statistic?


JF: No. It is necessary to understand these figures within the framework of a geo-economic and geopolitical analysis that characterizes the post-World War II world. As you may know, the figures drawn from World Bank data reveal nothing about inequalities and exploitation dynamics. It is essential to keep this in mind while interpreting the numbers, and we must read the figures while considering each system’s geographic and demographic data. As evidence, data on Gross National Income (GNI) provides a different perspective (https://www.JuriGlobe.ca/eng/pib-rnb/graph_rnb.php).


CY: Considering that a decade and a half has passed since these statistics were recorded, if we were to look at them now, would there be a different picture of what systems have been particularly conducive to economic development in the globalizing world?


JF: Not so much. Certainly, the numbers will shift a bit in favor of mixed systems, but the overall picture remains the same for the moment.


CY: How do you think the presence of varied languages in almost all countries impacts international legal communication? Alternatively, can we talk about a lingua franca of global legal practice?


JF: Law and language are the defining characteristics of a nation. Just like language, law should be specific to each nation (I’m not making this up; just read Montesquieu). Linguistic diversity can certainly, to some extent, facilitate a better understanding of legal systems and quasi-judicial practices in different countries. However, this does not go so far as to claim the existence of a true common legal language (Lingua franca), even though the English language occupies a significant and determining role in legal, political, economic, and academic communication on an international scale. This dominance is more justified by geo-economic and political considerations than by voluntary universal adherence.

Moreover, I would like to point out that JuriGlobe‘s work on this subject raises an important question about the relationship between legal systems and languages. You can observe that the presence of Common Law seems to be associated with the presence of English as an official or semi-official language (see our definitions). In contrast, this connection is difficult to establish for other systems (Civil Law, Muslim Law, Customary Law). Food for thought!


CY: Before we wrap up, let’s focus on the phenomenon of globalization one more time. Globalization refers to the integration of economic activities across borders and demands a new kind of legal practitioner. Parallel to this context, you include a section on your website about international trade and legal integration, which is a hot topic among young legal professionals. Most of our readers are young lawyers trained in civil law mono systems seeking graduate degree opportunities (mostly an L.L.M.) in common law jurisdictions with the aim of establishing a presence in the international business transactions market. How can this group of young lawyers practically benefit from the resources available on JuriGlobe: (a) as a research tool, (b) as an education tool?


JF: You know, one of the objectives of creating JuriGlobe was to provide lawyers and business people with a simple and modern device that enables them to have an initial overview of the applicable legal systems and the official languages that apply to the countries in which they are likely to operate, or where their endeavors may take them.

So, a legal professional (jurist/lawyer) trained in a specific legal tradition could, through JuriGlobe‘s database, get an idea about the extent and presence of legal systems worldwide. This would give them preliminary insights into the reality of different legal systems.

Another objective of this project is to stimulate a discussion on the governance of globalization to develop dynamic multilateral international commercial tools which are both reliable and easily accessible, based on recognized principles, and which take into account the diversity of the various legal systems, their languages, and their economic and demographic importance.

Students can rely on JuriGlobe‘s data to conduct research on the interaction between legal systems and regulations on international trade. In fact, several studies on this subject have been based, among other sources, on JuriGlobe’s data. Contrary to the claims of the World Bank reports mentioned above, Common Law is not and cannot be the basis of all international regulations. All legal systems contribute to this field of law in their ways.


CY: Thank you for taking the time to speak with me, Professor Fathally. In closing, is there any general advice you would like to share with young lawyers seeking to practice on an international scale? How can law students and young lawyers best develop their skills in navigating intercultural and interlanguage legal communication to excel in the increasingly globalized legal practice?


JF: I advise all students not to limit themselves to the boundaries of their legal systems or national language. Today’s world is no longer that of past centuries. The interaction between regional and international legal institutions and the active influences between legal systems OBLIGE every legal professional to “go off the beaten track = hors des sentiers battus” and acquire a diverse legal and linguistic understanding without hesitation. 

Any self-respecting legal professional must be well-versed in his national legal system and open to knowledge of other legal cultures and traditions. A legal professional should neither be an ‘alienated’ person who sees no merit in his proper legal system nor a ‘chauvinist’ who opposes any openness to the Other. In reality, the Other is just an extension of ourselves. Legal doctrine has developed numerous theories for classifying legal systems (including that of JuriGlobe). However, from knowledge and experience, I tell you that no legal system has been formed in isolation on a Robinsonian island. Monosystemism does not imply a system ‘pure’ from any foreign influence.

I congratulate you on this interesting and unique project. It was a great pleasure to answer your questions. JF

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