A new project


(Why should I study) Law Beyond My State (?)

Tamara Hervey, Sheffield, March 2016

This project began[1] as a conversation.

Not a real conversation – a conversation in my head.

Emeritus Professor William Twining has asked me to consider writing a book proposal for a ‘critical, or other suitable book’ in my field (EU law) for Law in Context (CUP). ‘Write so that a bright undergraduate can engage with the book’, he counselled.

So, I imagined that bright, engaged undergraduate. She is inquisitive, earnest (perhaps), hard-working, and keen to make the most of her time at university. She has relatively limited life experience (she is 19 or 20 years old). She has travelled, but has had little time to reflect on what she has learned from travelling. She knows a bit about law. And what she knows about law tells her that law is a jurisdictional, geographically bound subject, tied to a particular state. She has studied – so far – the law of her state.

In her Legal System module, for instance, she has learned that the sources of law are constitutional texts, the legislation adopted by her national legislature, and administrative acts of her national, regional or local executive bodies, as interpreted by domestic courts. If she is in a common law jurisdiction (my imagination didn’t specify), the sources of law include the rationes of judgments of those domestic courts. She may have picked up that decisions of courts in other jurisdictions are persuasive authorities. But binding precedent comes from within her domestic legal system.

But she is open, drawn to reflection and interrogation, and intellectually curious.

When she learns that, as part of her curriculum, she must study law from outside her jurisdiction, she wants to understand the thinking behind that curriculum design. The ‘law from outside her jurisdiction’ might be EU law, or (European) human rights law, or the law of conflicts/private international law, or public international law, or comparative law. Many undergraduate law curricula include some such elements, and in the UK at least at the time of writing, EU law is a ‘qualifying law degree subject’, one of the ‘foundations of legal knowledge’ that must make up at least 50% of a law degree.

So she comes to me, and asks,

‘Why should I study law beyond my state?’.

This project will be my answer.

[1] Of course it didn’t. It began long ago. Maybe when I worked with Rob Cryer and others on Research Methodologies in EU and International Law (Hart 2011). Maybe when I was Erasmus coordinator for the Law Department in Durham (1995-98). Maybe when I studied comparative law with Esin Orucu and EU law with Noreen Burrows in Glasgow (1989-92). Maybe when my father walked out of Hungary in 1956, aged 14.

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