Legal Culture Club
The activities of the legal culture club ended in 2015 after 12 years. From 2010, the focus of the activities was on the initiative of founding a large project named “Anthology of Swiss Legal Culture”.
At the initiative Jens Drolshammer, The Salon operated an Legal Culture Club. The participants in this are Prof. Dr. Franz Werro (University of Freiburg, Georgetown University Law School), Prof. Dr. Thomas Probst (University of Freiburg), Prof. Dr. Hans-Ueli Vogt (University of Zurich), Prof. Dr. Urs Gasser (The Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School) Prof. Dr. Thomas Cottier (University of Bern), Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Ernst (University of Zürich), Prof. Dr. Cyrill Rigamonti(University of Bern) and Pascal Pichonnaz (University of Fribourg).
The participants are all professors with a particular and close affinity to Anglo-American law and to European law and the legal culture of the USA and the EU and its effects on the continental European legal order, in particular that of Switzerland. Three of the participants have an institutional connection with US law schools. Franz Werro is tenured professor at Georgetown University Law School (, Jens Drolshammer is normally a Visiting Research Professor in the fall term at Harvard Law School. Urs Gasser is the director of the Berkman Center for Society and Cyberspace at Harvard University.
Starting point and catalyst
The starting point and catalyst for this Legal Culture Club were issues such as: what attitude do we take to the supposed tendency for an “Americanization of the Swiss legal order”? Are we or are we not affected, if only tangentially, by US legal culture and if so how do we respond to it? We try in this club to approach questions such as whether matters American and tendencies for Americanization really form a part of the horizon, the awareness, the sensibility, knowledge, understanding and the legal and political sphere of action of lawyers, particularly those in Switzerland, when it comes to the significance and effect of US legal culture both generally and on Switzerland? The same issues are relevant in the complex relationship of Switzerland with the European Union.
We take the position that this phenomenon is significant for Switzerland; that its effect and scope have been insufficiently recognized and that too little account has been taken of it in the way that various aspects of the Swiss legal system are structured and dealt with in practice. We believe that current engagement with this phenomenon is neither broad or deep enough given its importance – and particularly given the effects of the information society in the field of law-effects that have been induced and are largely controlled by the USA.
In our view the emotional affinity for the United States and its mentality that had existed, in law as in other areas, particularly ever since the Second World War up until the turn of the millennium, has now faded. This is despite the fact that the Swiss legal system is one that is above average in terms of its receptiveness and degree of “internationalization” – even, albeit to a decreasing extent, when it comes to US legal culture; however, it is also to an above-average extent affected by and to some extent dependent upon the degree of understanding and connection between the two legal cultures. Ultimately, there is also a lack of communicative, competent and assertive behaviour in the network of those affected by dealing with the consequences of US legal culture, even if the turnaround that is currently in progress in Switzerland would in principle offer a more propitious environment for this.
The Legal Culture Club met three times a year in the chalet of Franz Werro in the mountains around Freiburg. We meet at 17:00, work through a standard agenda and then continue our discussions over a joint dinner. We try to centre the event around the discussion of a relevant text. The work on the project „Anthology of Swiss Legal Culture“ in English has priority.
Upon request or as suitable opportunities arise we hold special events with a wider group of attendees such as the discussions with Professor Matthias Reiman, University of Michigan Law School, Professor Arthur Miller, of Harvard Law School and from 1 September 2007 New York University Law School and Professor John Palfrey, Harvard Law School.
These encounters, too, are private occasions for invited guests only. The contents of the discussions are off the record and confidential.