Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The first in a series about developments of law and economics in Europe

Recent developments of law and economics in Switzerland

by Professor Anne van Aaken, University of St. Gallen

Switzerland has been one of the countries in Europe where Law & Economics was taught at Master level in the universities already in the 1980ties, mostly in the economics departments (e.g. Bern and Fribourg). But Switzerland was also early in establishing courses in Law & Economics for both, Economics and Law doctoral students from Switzerland. Those so-called Gerzensee Courses, organized by Gerard Hertig from the Federal Technical Institute in Zürich (ETHZ), are given by renowned Law & Economics scholars, mostly from the US.
Ever more, Law & Economics is taught also in the Law Schools, e.g. Luzerne, University of Zürich, University of Basel (see e.g. the Zaeslin program: http://www.wwz.unibas.ch/ds/abt/wirtschaft-und-politik/zaeslin-program-for-law-economics/abteilung/wifor) and ETHZ, all of them offer courses in Law & Economics. The Law School of the University of St. Gallen has established an entire Bachelor and Master in Law & Economics (http://www.mle.unisg.ch/org/lehre/ms.nsf/wwwPubInhalteGer/Master-Programm+Law+and+Economics+(MLE)?opendocument). This program is – as concerns the early integration of Law and Economics in the curriculum (partly also business administration) – unique in Switzerland and to my knowledge in Europe. The first Master students graduated in 2007 and were highly appreciated in the job market, be it with internationally working law firms, be it with accountancy or consultancy firms. Furthermore, there are regular Lecture Series in Law & Economics, taking place in Zürich, organized by the ETHZ, the University of Zürich, the University of St. Gallen and recently joined by the University of Lucerne (http://www.hertig.ethz.ch/LE_Spring_2009/LE_Spring_2009_Schedule.htm).

Ever more students also write their doctoral theses in the field of Law & Economics in St. Gallen, but not only there. St. Gallen University, together with ETHZ is cooperating with the Amsterdam Center for Law and Economics and the Law School of Haifa University for the informal exchange possibility open for doctoral students in the field of Law & Economics, so called “LEx” (http://lex.acle.nl/). Until now, the Swiss Courts have not openly used Law & Economics arguments (different from e.g. the German Federal Constitutional Court in 2006), but consequentialist arguments may be found also here.
As a personal impression, I find that the communication is getting easier between lawyers and economists, although it clearly remains far behind the level of communication and mutual acceptance in the United States. But depending on the area of law (e.g. competition law, corporate law, international law, legal theory) and the area of economics (institutional economics, behavioral economics, microeconomics with game theory) in which people are trained and practice, communication is taking place and can be very fruitful, certainly in academia as well as in practice. In short: although slowly, Law & Economics in Switzerland is becoming more mainstream, also in the law faculties and communication between lawyers and economists as well as business is becoming easier.

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