Multilateral – annual report 2020

Overall Concept 

Multilateral events such as conferences, summer schools and especially internship programmes are an important part of IRZ’s work.

They offer legal practitioners from the judiciary or the free legal professions a forum for professional exchange with German colleagues. Participants can use these opportunities to discuss current legal questions or problems in coping with everyday professional life. By contrast, summer schools and similar multilateral training formats enable young lawyers to engage with other legal systems and with European rule-of-law standards.

Another objective of these formats is to encourage the formation of lasting international networks among the individual audiences. The programmes make a significant contribution in this regard.

Hosting some of the programmes that are traditionally held in German in the transfer languages of English and French reaches virtually all of the IRZ partner states in this context. Regrettably, most of these events – with the exception of the internship programme for Arabic-speaking refugee lawyers – had to be cancelled due to the pandemic.

They were replaced with smaller, more practical further training events organised in a virtual format. However, these formats were able to meet the objectives to a limited extent only, especially in the classic internship programmes. This applies all the more to providing direct insight into everyday work practice in German legal professions, for instance the organisation of notaries’ offices or law firms or the procedural processes and atmosphere during hearings at German courts. IRZ is therefore determined, if possible, to return to the traditional formats in the year ahead, as soon as the general circumstances permit. Online formats will otherwise be offered in some cases.

Events in 2020 

Fifth seminar for Arabic-speaking refugee lawyers 

IRZ organised the seminar “Introduction to German Law” for Arabic-speaking refugee lawyers from Syria and Iraq from 13 to 17 July 2020 for the fifth successive year. The seminar is intended for persons who have completed their legal studies or have already acquired professional experience as lawyers in their home countries of Syria or Iraq. The programme was expanded to include 30 participants in 2020. Basic principles of the German legal system were taught over the course of five working days. The thematic priorities of the event were on state organisation law, fundamental rights, the German court system, basics of German asylum and residence law, as well as basics and case studies from criminal and criminal procedure law and civil and civil procedure law.

In addition to these lectures and discussions, the seminar included a working visit to the Bonn Regional Court followed by attendance of a court hearing. Moreover, a representative from the Department of Law at the University of Bonn led a discussion with the participants and informed them about study opportunities for foreign students.

The seminar focused on presenting case studies that illustrate German legal practice, relate to the everyday experiences of refugees and provide a good framework for group discussions. Not only did this lead to a lively exchange and many interested questions, it also promotes the integration of refugees into German society and the understanding of legal contexts.

The seminar was financed by the Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection.

Internship programme for Arabic-speaking refugee lawyers in the area of “commercial and company law”

IRZ organised an additional internship programme in November and December 2020 to build on the aforementioned programme for Arabic-speaking lawyers from Syria and Iraq. The programme consisted of a five-day introductory online course, in which the participants learned about company law, insolvency law, competition law and intellectual property law, among other things, followed by a two-week internship that the interns completed in selected law firms and commercial businesses. This enabled the participants to expand the knowledge they had acquired and gain insight into the practical side of working in legal professions. The event will hopefully enable them to gain a foothold in the job market.

This internship programme was also funded by the Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection. IRZ intends to continue the internship programme in 2021 and to reschedule the component on “soft skills” for lawyers that was cancelled due to the pandemic.

Online further training for French-speaking lawyers from the Maghreb countries

IRZ organised its first French-language further training series on current questions and problems in professional practice for notaries, lawyers, administrative and civil judges from Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco from 30 November to 3 December 2020. In total, around 40 participants from the three states took part in the series of events, in which one day was reserved for each of the four professional groups. The agenda included the following and other topics:

  • Digitalisation (electronic files, electronic legal correspondence)
  • Conducting hearings in civil and administrative court jurisdiction
  • International private law in notarial practice, using the example of inheritance and family law
  • Professional law for lawyers

After a brief introductory lecture by the German speakers on each of the topics, the participants had the opportunity to engage in detailed group discussions and to share their general ideas. This sparked considerable interest and led to lively discussions, despite the digital platform. Nevertheless, the participants agreed that this format is no substitute for personal contact and it can only be hoped that the traditional internship programme can resume in the coming year.

Alumni further training event for lawyers on the legal implications of the COVID-19 pandemic

IRZ uses its network website to promote contact between former participants of the multilateral internship programme for lawyers and remains in close contact with them through regular correspondence. The internship programme has been jointly organised by IRZ, the German Federal Bar and the German Bar Association since 1994.

The new online format provided the opportunity to bring together alumni of the internship for lawyers from different years at one event. During the event, IRZ and the German Bar Association held a seminar on the topic of “Legal implications of the COVID-19 pandemic”. The event was attended by 36 lawyers from 17 different countries who had completed an internship between 1995 and 2019. The presenting lawyers shared their views on the COVID-19 pandemic with the participating alumni. Topics included the legal basis for imposing corona measures, consequences for commercial tenancy law, legal aspects of cancelled events and issues related to compensation claims and insurance cover for those affected. The speakers used examples from legal practice and current case-law to elucidate the situation in Germany to the participating lawyers and invited them to contribute personal experiences from their countries. The alumni were only too willing to accept this invitation.