Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Subject Focus: Comparative Legal Ethics research and resources

One fascinating component of working in legal education in Qatar for me is to observe a country with blended legal systems. Qatar has civil, common, and sharia law depending on the subject and parties involved in a transaction or dispute. For example, a common law based court was created in Qatar for commercial litigation with authority to decide and enforce judgments. New tribunals like the Qatar International Court are bringing lawyers and major law firm offices to the region that collaborate with local bar members, so these ethics issues are becoming more important.  Law schools do not commonly have professional ethics courses in the region and bar associations are not engaged to encode or enforce. Accreditation practice visits identified this need and it is being responded to at QU.
At the recent Qatar Law Forum I met an international lawyer from the UK now based in Doha who described to me the practice of law here and really emphasized the difficulty of collaboration across jurisdictions and legal systems without a common code of legal ethics. For example, is it ok to coach a witness or how do you define a conflict of interest? The answers depend on the origins and professional ethics of the lawyers and any disagreement will probably result in a costly withdrawal from representation and impede successful collaboration.
Library resources at QU in this area are slim. There are two books on UK ethics in the library and no other local resources are collected. Westlaw International and LexisNexis Academic provide common law based material. Identifying this gap in our collection is an opportunity to add to the library’s ability to support interest in comparative legal ethics instruction and research. I am developing resources in this area based on resources at the International Association of Legal Ethics at Stanford,  the International Forum on Teaching Legal Ethics and Professionalism,  and conference materials from the International Legal Ethics Conferences.  Journals such as Legal Ethics will be added to the QU law collection over the next year. Fortunately, the International Bar Association has developed many ethical codes that are available in multiple languages.

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