The case method as a contribution to practice-oriented legal training

Graphics: IRZ
Graphics: IRZ

On 11 May 2021, the first of a series of workshops was held on the "Case method as a contribution to practice-oriented legal training". The workshop was organised jointly by the Belgrade Institute of Comparative Law and IRZ.

The series of events aims to offer ideas for a stronger integration of the expert opinion method in the training and examination of future lawyers.

The Director of the Belgrade Institute, Professor Vladimir Čolović, and IRZ Head of Section Dr Stefan Pürner opened the event, which was organised as a round table. There were then keynote speeches, each of which was followed by rounds of questions and comments. The results were finally summarised in a general discussion.

The speakers were selected in such a way that they each reported from a different perspective on their experiences with the expert resolution of complex legal cases.

The first keynote speech was given by Professor Zlatan Meskić, who completed his legal training including his doctorate in Vienna and had therefore already familiarised himself with the case method as a student. As a university lecturer, Professor Meskić uses this method in his own courses at the University of Zenica in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Prince Sultan University in Saudi Arabia.

Professor Meskić's lecture was followed by a presentation by lawyer Nicola Dašić. He is an alumnus of the course in German legal terminology offered by IRZ in Belgrade and has successfully completed a Master's degree in German law in Bonn. Nicola Dašić reported from the perspective of a Serbian graduate who only got to know the German legal education system after his training.

The final presentations were given by the criminal law expert Professor Nataša Mrvić Petrović and the civil law expert Professor Miloš Živković from Belgrade. Both work intensively with the case method in their courses.

Despite the online format, intensive discussions took place between the almost 30 participants from Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina after the presentations, which lasted far beyond the scheduled event time.

One of the results of this exchange of ideas was that the case method is mainly used by younger university lecturers. However, since the exams are still held by professors who use the traditional method and have individual questions answered orally, a large proportion of students still see training in solving complex cases as an avoidable additional expense.

This is all the more regrettable because, according to some participants, the lack of practical case work and the written elaboration of solutions is also reflected in the poor quality of the judgements, even of higher courts. These are often decided without systematic examination and justification according to general considerations of legality. Since the uniformity and reviewability of case law also suffers as a result, this leads to legal uncertainty in the long term. Therefore, overriding rule of law issues would also speak in favour of making the case method compulsory in legal education.

The workshop series will continue with an event on legal training in Germany and the detailed presentation of training cases from the field of private international law.

Practical seminar on the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on arbitration

Graphics: IRZ
Graphics: IRZ

On 3 December 2020, another practical seminar was held on the subject of arbitration, organised jointly by the German-Serbian Chamber of Commerce (AHK), the German Institute of Arbitration (DIS) and IRZ. The event focussed on the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on arbitration proceedings and arbitration law. Since the practical seminar was held online, the audience was larger than in previous years. The participating lawyers and corporate lawyers joined the seminar from Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Germany.

Once the event had been opened by the joint organisers, the Head of Economic Affairs at the German Embassy, Anne-Kristin Piplica, welcomed the participants. The subjects covered by the practical seminar were presented in four blocks in an interview format, moderated by IRZ Head of Section, Dr. Stefan Pürner. The experts representing IRZ were:

  • Prof. Dr. Milena Djordjević, LL.M. (Pittsburgh), Law Faculty of the University of Belgrade and a board member of the Serbian Arbitration Association
  • Victor von Essen, M. Jur. (Oxford), a lawyer and Deputy Secretary General and Head of Case Management at DIS

One of the things that became clear was that the two arbitration institutions based in Belgrade and the DIS arbitration proceedings provide extremely good value for money. They offer the same level of quality but are less expensive than other internationally far more famous institutions. Both speakers also confirmed that the flexibility of arbitration proceedings is a considerable advantage, particularly at present. Any disruption to contractual relationships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic can be dealt with quickly by arbitration proceedings, with the result that the number of these is increasing at present.

The speakers also emphasised the fact that the proactive role of arbitrators in DIS proceedings offers a considerable advantage compared with arbitration proceedings based on the legal interpretation of common law.

Presentation of a German law library in Kragujevac

A view of the meeting room in Kragujevac during the lecture by Prof. Dr. Slavko Đorđević (at the desk)
A view of the meeting room in Kragujevac during the lecture by Prof. Dr. Slavko Đorđević (at the desk)

As part of the 180th anniversary celebrations of the University of Kragujevac in Serbia, on 9 October 2020 IRZ presented the Law Faculty at the university with a library on Germany law and private international law. A supplementary course on German law is currently being established at the Law Faculty under the leadership of Prof. Dr. Slavko Đorđević. The book donation from the estate of Prof. Dr. Jörg Pirrung, a former judge at the European Court of First Instance, was presented by Prof. Dr. Rolf Wagner, who until recently was Head of Department for Private International Law at the German Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection (BMJV).

To mark the occasion of the presentation of this valuable library, IRZ together with the Law Faculty of the University of Kragujevac organised a series of lectures, which was attended both locally and online. The number of participants in Kragujevac was restricted due to healthcare guidelines, and so many participants attended the conference online. The event was opened by Prof. Dr. Nenad Filipović, Rector of the University, Prof. Dr. Dragan Vujisić, Dean of the Law Faculty, and Dr. Stefan Pürner, IRZ Head of Section, who expressly thanked Professor Pirrung’s widow for the generous donation. The second secretary at the German Embassy in Belgrade, Daniel Mohseni, also welcomed the participants and summed up the subsequent lectures under the title “The light and dark sides of German law – from legal certainty to the abuse of civil law through unrestricted interpretation in National Socialism”. He said that the successful cooperation with German institutions and the intensive teaching and research on German law was very fortunate, against the historical backdrop of the massacre in Kragujevac carried out by German soldiers during the occupation of Serbia in World War II.

Prof. Dr. Slavko Đorđević later went on to explain in his lecture why it is particularly worthwhile for law students in Serbia to study German law. He emphasised the fact that Germany is a typical representative of continental European law, with a long legal tradition and plenty of literature and practical application to refer to. Professor Đorđević referred to the close connection between academic and legal practice in German jurisprudence from a Serbian point of view. For a country preparing to join the EU, it is a great advantage that German law is already harmonised with European law. He concluded his lecture by stressing the merits of the German legal training system with its concept of general lawyers. The IRZ Head of Section responsible for Serbia, lawyer Dr. Stefan Pürner, then spoke in Serbian about the abuse of civil law in National Socialism and provided proof of the so-called “unrestricted interpretation of civil law” with cases from matrimonial and enforcement law.

The event reflected the friendly partnership between Germany and Serbia, which does not deny the dark sides of the past. The broadcasting company RTV Kragujevac reported on the event in its news programme (Učionica na otvorenom u okviru Pravnog fakulteta, from minute 2:30) and there is also an extensive report on the Law Faculty’s website, including a number of photos (Свечано отворена Немачка правна библиотека, донација фондације IRZ).