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World lawyers call for standardised laws


Cite as: (2003) 77(10) LIJ, p.20

A survey of lawyers from eight countries has shown strong support for the standardisation of areas of international law.

A worldwide survey of 700 lawyers has found the Australian legal profession among the most enthusiastic supporters of standardisation of certain international laws.

The International Bar Association and LexisNexis survey found a majority – 71 per cent – of Australian lawyers believed the legal profession would benefit from the convergence of law across borders.

When asked which areas of law should be standardised at an international level, a majority of local lawyers chose money transmission and laundering (84 per cent), terrorism and security (77 per cent), trade and investment (70 per cent) and environmental protection (60 per cent).

Half of the Australian lawyers surveyed chose insolvency as an area of law that should be standardised, while a minority elected mergers and anti-trust, corporate social responsibility and immigration.

The views held by the Australian legal profession were largely in line with the views of the professions from other countries surveyed – the US, UK, Canada, France, Germany, and Argentina/Chile. (The survey placed lawyers from Argentina and Chile in the one group.)

Among the other significant results from the survey were:

  • 92 per cent of the German legal profession called for money transmission and laundering law to be internationally standardised;
  • only 18 per cent of the French profession believed corporate social responsibility should be brought in line globally. The next lowest was Canada with 30 per cent; and
  • despite concerns over terrorists entering their country, just 28 per cent of the US legal profession wanted to see immigration law standardised.

On the subject of terrorism, 47 per cent of the Australian profession believed the country’s legal system was well equipped to handle matters relating to international terrorism.

A further 36 per cent said the country was either not very well equipped or poorly equipped to deal with terrorism.

This compared to 74 per cent of American lawyers and 81 per cent of UK lawyers who believed their respective countries were well equipped to handle matters relating to international terrorism.

When asked to expand on their thoughts on their country’s ability to deal with terrorism, 89 per cent of Australian lawyers agreed that their legal system contained a limited ability to manage the practical enforcement of anti-terrorism legislation.

Sixty-nine per cent agreed that there was a lack of information about international legal requirements regarding anti-terrorism legislation and that there was a lack of relevant anti-terrorism legislation.

Three-quarters of Australian lawyers believed that there was a current lack of expertise to help develop anti-terrorism legislation.

Law Institute councillor and International Law Briefing Committee co-chair Peter Little said the survey’s findings showed there would be an increasing demand for lawyers with international law knowledge.

“There’s significant opportunity for Australia if we can catch this wave and we should start to build the networks across the board to bring about a greater standardisation in some areas such as money transmission and trade and investment.

“And there is an increasing demand for Australian lawyers to have international law knowledge and we should develop an expertise to take advantage of this trend and start doing this work across the borders.

“We can then become a gateway for the Asia-Pacific region.”

To find out more about the International Law Briefing Committee contact Suzanne Jukic on

Jason Silverii


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