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Top International Lawyers of 2008?

Published on December 31, 2008        Author: 

At this time of the year, it is usual for the media to pubish lists of top this and top that of the year. I wonder whether it is possible to have list of the top international lawyers of 2008. If one were to try to construct such a list one would have come up with criteria for identiying these people. Presumably, one would be looking for those international lawyers who apppear to have been most influential. But how does one measure influence? Is influence not something which may only become apparent many years later? Perhaps one would need to distinguish between those lawyers operating in governments and IOs from international law academics.

The Times (of London) published a list ealier this year (see here) of the UK’s 100 most powerful lawyers. This is said to be “a list of the lawyers who have the most clout in shaping the rules we live by”. According to the Times, this list of 100 top UK lawyers:

is not a list of excellence, popularity or media mentions — although these can be factors. So it’s not just big names or brilliant stars (take comfort, those excluded). Instead, we tried to select the most powerful and influential within the law today — in the judiciary, private practice, in-house, public sector or politics.

How to measure power and influence — who really has clout?  . . .

We had in mind such factors as whether contenders can influence public or political opinion, or the strategy or policy of a big firm, company or government; whether they can shape or apply the law in a way that affects many people; whether they are respected, feared or emulated or contributed to the strength and quality of UK legal services.

Readers may be interested to see how many international lawyers are included in the list. There are some in the list who have made significant contributions to international law cases in the UK but who are perhaps better known for a more general contribution to UK Law. For example, some are judges [eg Lord Bingham, former Senior Law Lord and one of the judges in the Al-Skeini  case (extraterritorial application of the ECHR in Iraq); the Al-Jedda case (interaction between ECHR and UN Security Council resolutions with regard to detentions in Iraq by British forces); the A case (use in British proceedings of evidence obtained by torture). Others are human rights litigators who have also made important contributoions to that area of law (eg Phil Shiner).

There are three names on the list which are more likely to be recognised by non-UK international lawyers: Daniel Bethlehem, the Legal Adviser to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (and former LSE & Cambridge academic)

Christopher Greenwood, currently Professor of International Law at the LSE, who has just been elected to the International Court of Justice

Dame Rosalyn Higgins, current President of the International Court of Justice (and also a former LSE Professor of International Law).

In my view, the fact that some of the lawyers on the list are international lawyers says something about the perception of international law in the UK (or at least about the perception of the place of international law by the persons who put the list together). One can only speculate whether any international lawyers would have made a similar list put together a couple of decades ago. Does anyone know of any similar lists in other countries? Do they include international lawyers? Perhaps readers would like to put together a list of the most influential public international lawyers of 2008.

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One Response

  1. Pavel Caban

    A little bit too late comment; nevertheless, as regards the Czech Republic, Jiří Malenovský, professor of international law and the judge of the European Court of Justice, was placed seventh/eighth in the list of most influential Czech lawyers in 2007 (the list was made up by Czech newspaper Hospodářské noviny according to answers by cca 50 Czech lawyers).