Seminar at the universities of Zurich and St. Gallen

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“US legal culture from a European perspective – the approach taken to the legal culture of the USA by heads of legal departments of multinational enterprises, by international lawyers, by Swiss administrative and regulatory authorities and by the courts in Switzerland and Europe”

In the summer term of 2007 Prof. Dr. Jens Drolshammer held a seminar with the above title at the universities of Zurich and St. Gallen together with Prof. Dr. Anton Schnyder and Prof. Dr. Hans-Ueli Vogt of Zurich University. This seminar aimed to show students what actual effect the contact with US law and legal culture has on in-house corporate lawyers, lawyers in independent practice, lawyers in public administration as well as judges in Switzerland; what priority people in these areas actually accord to dealing with US legal culture and how these professions go about dealing with US law and legal culture in practice. Ideas and material for discussion were supplied to students mostly in the form of reports by high-ranking experts from the four branches of the legal profession involved. These reports from those actually dealing with these issues in practice formed the starting point for more focused and in-depth discussions on theme of the seminar.

The seminar also aimed to provide students with a more problem-focused insight into legal practice and so act as an adjunct to university teaching that generally focuses on legal rules and principles. Through the prior reading of a comprehensive package of materials and through an essay to be written in the summer after the seminar, students also acquired specific knowledge of the subject being discussed.

The seminar was structured as follows:

At the opening event, professors Prof. Dr. Andreas Wenger (ETH Zürich) and Prof. Dr. Rolf Stürner (Freiburg University) gave a general introduction to the state of transatlantic relations and the significance of the USA for Europe and Switzerland from a geopolitical, foreign policy and legal perspective.

Seminar I, “US legal culture from the perspective of heads of legal departments of multinational enterprises in Switzerland” comprised a lecture by Dr. Peter Kurer (UBS AG), and statements by Dr. Markus Diethelm (Swiss Re), Dr. Bruno Meier (Roche), Dr. Thomas Werlen (Novartis), Dr. Reto Schiltknecht (Schindler) and Dr. Andreas Meier (Institut Straumann).

Seminar II, “US legal culture from the perspective of internationally active attorneys in Switzerland”, consisted of contributions from Dr. Andreas von Planta (Lenz & Staehelin), Dr. Peter Isler (Niederer Kraft & Frey), Dr. Nedim Peter Vogt (Bär & Karrer), PD Dr. Nathalie Voser (Schellenberg Wittmer) and Dr. Peter Widmer (Homburger).

Seminar III, “US legal culture from the perspective of administrative and regulatory authorities in Switzerland”, consisted of a lecture by Prof. Dr. Heinrich Koller (former Head of the Swiss Federal Office of Justice) and statements from Dr. Rudolf Wyss (Head of the Department for International Legal Assistance, Federal Office of Justice), Dieter Cavalleri (acting Head of Public International Law, Department of Public International Law), Fürsprecher Michel-André Fels (acting Chief Public Prosecutor [Bundesanwalt]), Dr. Urs Zulauf (Head of Legal Department, Swiss Banking Commission) and Dr. Hanspeter Tschäni (Head of International Commercial Law, seco).

Seminar IV, “US legal culture from the perspective of Swiss and European courts”, was made up of lectures by Dr. Heinz Aemisegger (judge at the Swiss Federal Court), Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Luzius Wildhaber (President of the European Court of Human Rights), Judge Aindrias O’Caoimh (judge at the European Court of Justice) and Prof. Dr. Carl Otto Lenz (former Advocate General at the ECJ).

In each of the seminars the experts dealt only with the actual effects of US law and legal culture on their work and how they dealt with this in practice.

At each seminar questions prepared in advance were put by students organized into groups. Assistant professors kept a record of what was said.

In the closing seminar the student groups presented a summary and their own conclusions from the seminar in the form of presentations they had prepared.

It is possible that the professors responsible for the seminar will make it the subject of a publication.

It would have been impossible to hold the seminar without the financial assistance of, amongst others, Allianz Suisse, Homburger Rechtsanwälte, Niederer Kraft & Frey, Roche, Schellenberg Wittmer, Institut Straumann AG, Swiss Re, UBS AG and Dr. Nedim Peter Vogt (Bär & Karrer).